United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Israel on Sunday night for a three-day visit packed with meetings and briefings and stressed on a number of different occasions, that calling for the destruction of Israel is modern day anti-Semitism.
The former Portuguese Prime Minister made his first visit to the country since taking the helm at the UN in January.
Guterres’s visit was a perfect opportunity for Israel’s political and military leaders to unite and present the Secretary-General with a list of complaints about how the organisation he heads is riddled with anti-Israel bias.
From President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu through to Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman and new Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay along with the party’s delegation that included opposition leader Isaac Herzog and MK Tzipi Livni, the Secretary-General listened intensely to the criticism on UN institutions.
Netanyahu welcomed Guterres by saying that he has demonstrated a desire to turn a new page in relations between the Jewish State and the UN, but then lashed into the organization’s “absurd obsession with Israel,” and its “flagrantly discriminatory tactics.”
The UN mandate is to advance peace, security and international cooperation, but “has failed when it comes to Israel to live up to its mandate.” The Prime Minister added that “UNESCO is mandated with preserving world heritage, but denies the Jewish people’s 3,000-year connection to Jerusalem.” And pointed out that the UN is mandated to pursue peace, “but allows Palestinian hate speech to flourish in its institutions.”
He further talked about human rights, “but it [UN] allows in its various forms the worst human rights violators to take up the cudgel and to accuse Israel of violating human rights.”
For his part, Guterres said Israel should expect impartiality from the UN Secretary-General and that he will strive to be an “honest broker.” His comments stressing on a number of different occasions during the trip that calling for the destruction of Israel is modern anti-Semitism were welcomed.
Guterres also met with the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Herzl Halevi and Major General Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories to discuss Lebanon and Hezbollah.
Referring to Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms for the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the UN was mandated with preventing weapons shipments to Hezbollah, but UNIFIL is not reporting the tens of thousands of weapons being smuggled into Lebanon for the Shia terror group, contrary to the resolution.
UNIFIL’s mandate is up for renewal next week and both Israel and the US are pressing for its mandate to be strengthened in order to more effectively combat or at least report on Hezbollah’s weapons build-up and work to prevent a third Lebanese war.
But once again France is expected to raise its voice against changing the mandate.
Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN head, said that the purpose of his trip was “to engage directly with Israeli and Palestinian people and their leaders” about “finding a long overdue peaceful resolution to the conflict.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon greeted Guterres on his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, telling him, “We look forward to showing you our country, an island of stability and prosperity in a tumultuous region.”
Guterres visited Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum on Monday morning and met later with President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem. On Tuesday, he went to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian Authority leaders and on Wednesday to Gaza but stressed would not meet any Hamas representatives.
In addition, Guterres met the families of the Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza, and was urged throughout the visit to use his influence to bring about their release. Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called the meeting “emotional.”
Israel saw the visit to discuss two key issues with the UN head – ending the anti-Israel bias and changing the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzippi Hotovely threatened funding cuts for the UN body if the changes were not implemented.
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, blasted the commander of UNIFIL, last weekend, accusing him of turning a blind eye to Hezbollah weapons smuggling.
“General Beary says there are no Hezbollah weapons – That’s an embarrassing lack of understanding on what’s going on around him,” she said.
Netanyahu had said during his meeting that the most pressing problem Israel faces now is Hezbollah and Syria. He warned UN Secretary-General Guterres that, “It is our right not to allow this noose to tighten around Israel.”
The Prime Minister once again pointed the finger at Tehran saying that Jerusalem could not be expected to sit idly by as Iran entrenches itself in Syria and Lebanon and declares with Hezbollah that they are planning a two-front war against Israel.
“Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as war fronts [in] its declared goal to eradicate Israel,” Netanyahu said.
“It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles toward that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept.”