Monday, July 3, 2017

UN chief to visit Israel, Palestinian Authority next month in August 2017

http://www.timesofisrael.com/un-chief-to-visit-israel-palestinian-authority-next-month/

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority next month.

The trip would be Guterres’s first to the region since he took office on January 1. In Jerusalem, he is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other dignitaries. He’ll also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and receive briefings by senior security officials.

In Ramallah, he is due to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“It will be important for the secretary general to visit our country and see the true Israel,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told The Times of Israel.

“We know from experience that the more UN officials and ambassadors visit Israel and see our country firsthand, the more they appreciate the challenges we face on all the sides, but are also aware of the opportunities that exist in our region. This is why I have visited Israel with over 30 UN ambassadors over the past year alone plus 11 set to visit next week.”

Guterres’ planned visit comes amid constantly simmering tensions between the UN and Israel, especially in the wake of continuous pro-Palestinian resolutions passed by UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council.

Since December 2016, Israel has cut a total of $9 million from the amount it pays the UN in membership dues.

A native of Portugal, Guterres is considered a friend of Israel. In May, he said that the denial of Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism and affirmed the Jewish people’s ties to Jerusalem, a link denied by various UNESCO resolutions. Last week, he distanced himself from an event held by the “United Nations Forum to Mark Fifty Years of Occupation,” which attacked Israeli policies in the West Bank vociferously.

However, he recently came under fire by Israeli politicians for focusing on Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank in his press release marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War.

“This occupation has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people,” Guterres said in the statement. “Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children.”


In response, Danon pointed out that attacks on Israel by its neighbors did not begin in 1967. “Any attempt at a moral equivalency between killing innocent people and the building of homes is absurd,” he said.

Instead of spreading “Palestinian misinformation,” the UN should stick to the facts, Danon added. “It is preposterous to blame terror and violence in the Middle East on the one true democracy in the region,” he said. “The moment the Palestinian leadership abandons terror, ceases to incite against our people and finally returns to direct negotiations, then real progress can be made towards peace.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called on Guterres to retract his comments and to “correct the distortion” promoted at the UN that claims Israel’s control over the Golan and the West Bank was an occupation. “On the day when the UN sticks to the facts and ceases the misguided use of the term ‘occupation’ it will restore its credibility as an organization founded to uphold justice and truth,” she said in a statement.

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