PM Netanyahu, President Rivlin meet with U.N. chief Antonio Guterres in Jerusalem, urge end to anti-Israel bias in U.N. bodies • PM shares intelligence showing Iran entrenching itself militarily in Syria, Lebanon, says Israel, the U.N. cannot allow it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who arrived in Israel on Sunday on a three-day visit. This is Guterres’ first visit to the Jewish state since taking office in January.
The meeting focused largely on Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria and Hezbollah’s armament efforts in Lebanon.
Netanyahu presented the U.N. chief with intelligence illustrating Iran’s accelerated moves in the region, which Israel believes could drag the entire Middle East into war.
Iran is building sites to produce precision-guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon, with the aim of using them against Israel, Netanyahu told Guterres.
The prime minister further warned that Iran was turning Syria into a “base of military entrenchment as part of its declared goal to eradicate Israel.”
“This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept,” Netanyahu said.
The two further discussed Israel’s criticism of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s peacekeeping mission, which is up for renewal next week.
The prime minister also urged Guterres to rid the United Nations of its anti-Israel bias.
“There is no doubt that the U.N. is biased against Israel, but I hope that you have the opportunity to see the strong Israel that works to acquire knowledge that benefit its people and humanity as a whole,” Netanyahu said.
“The U.N. has failed with regard to Israel. UNESCO is making a mockery of world heritage when it denies the Jewish people’s connection to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “The U.N. is in charge of peace, but it allows Palestinian hatred to flourish in its institutions. The time has come to restore moral clarity to the U.N. I know that this is a big undertaking, and that the secretary general has no power over the member states, but I believe your leadership can be meaningful, and you can make an important change.”
Guterres said that as the U.N.’s member-states outline their interests regardless of the U.N.’s overall position on various issues, adding that as secretary general his duty is “to be a fair broker and peace envoy,” and to ensure all countries are treated equally.
Commenting on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Guterres said that while he understands he has no actual influence over the talks, he believes it is important to revive the diplomatic process to ensure “significant improvements in the Palestinians’ economic situation.”
The secretary general also met with President Reuven Rivlin.
“The U.N. allows nations to work together for the sake of humanity and we understand this better than anyone. The State of Israel is the only place where the Jewish people can realize their right to self-determination. But the anti-Israel bias in the U.N. and having [member-] states threaten to annihilate it is unacceptable,” he told Guterres.
Like Netanyahu, Rivlin urged Guterres to “work to end anti-Israel bias in part of the organization you head.”
Guterres assured Rivlin that as secretary general, he “very much wants to emphasize the basic values of the United Nations, to treat all countries equally” and that he was fully committed to doing so.
The secretary general told Rivlin that he, too, believe that the call to destroy Israel is a modern form of anti-Semitism.
“You must understand that sometimes I disagree with the positions of the Israeli government, just like any other government. We will always be direct in our dialogues with Israel in an attempt to find ways in which peace will be possible in the region,” he said.
While in Jerusalem, Guterres was also scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Military Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai and other senior defense officials.
U.N. chief committed to fighting anti-Semitism
Prior to his meeting with Netanyahu, the U.N. chief visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, as well as the grave of late President Shimon Peres on Mount Herzl.
“I believe that the horror of the Holocaust should be such that anti-Semitism should now be dead forever, but unfortunately we see it alive and well. I’m truly committed to fight anti-Semitism and to fight racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and all other forms of bigotry that unfortunately we were not yet able to make our world free of,” he said during his visit to the museum.
Later Monday, Guterres was scheduled to meet with the families of Israeli soldiers and civilians believed to be held captive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon is accompanying Guterres during his visit.
On Tuesday, Guterres is scheduled to visit Ramallah, where he is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other top Palestinian officials.
Wednesday will see the secretary general go on an aerial tour of Israel accompanied by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi. He will also tour the Israel-Gaza Strip border and visit several U.N. facilities in Gaza.
On Tuesday evening, Guterres will attend an event in his honor at the Israel Museum, where he will meet, among others, executives from four Israeli startups.
The four are: Water-gen, which develops technology for producing drinking water from air; HomeBiogas, which develops technology for turning organic home waste into cooking gas; water solutions company Aqwise; and Sight Diagnostics, which develops medical technology for using computer vision to diagnose blood diseases.
Guterres will also meet representatives from Innovation Africa, which helps implement Israeli solar technologies in Africa.
“The secretary general’s visit is an important opportunity to present Israel’s contribution to the world in many spheres,” Danon said.