UN chief arrives in Israel for 3-day visit

UN chief Guterres is in Israel “to engage directly with Israeli and Palestinian people and their leaders” and to help find “a long overdue peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres arrived in Israel on Sunday night for a three day visit, after making a stop in Kuwait and visiting Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon greeted him upon his arrival.

“We welcome you to Israel,” Danon told Guterres. “We look forward to showing you our country, an island of stability and prosperity in a tumultuous region,” he added.

Guterres visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, on Monday, met with President Reuven Rivlin and will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

At Yad Vashem, the Secretary General toured the Holocaust History Museum, participated in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, visited the Children’s Memorial and signed the Yad Vashem Guest Book.

“As we witness a new wave of shocking and dangerous racism, the entire world must stand up and unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism,” Danon stated during the visit.

In the evening, the Secretary General will attend, together with Netanyahu and Danon, a special showcase of Israeli innovation at the Israel Museum.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in an email to AP that the visit will allow Guterres “to engage directly with Israeli and Palestinian people and their leaders” about “finding a long overdue peaceful resolution to the conflict.”

This is Guterres’ first visit to Israel since taking office in January.

Both before and since taking office, Guterres has objected to Israel’s being singled out for criticism.

Upon assuming office he said he would use his position as secretary general to push the organization to treat Israel “like any other state.” Later in March, he successfully pressed for the shelving of a controversial UN report that accused Israel of being an “apartheid” state.

In early June, Guterres expressed concern over Israel’s “occupation” in the disputed territories on the 50th anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War. However, Guterres has also condemned critics of Israel as anti-Semites and affirmed Jerusalem’s Jewish roots.

Netanyahu is expected to ask Guterres to address and alter the UN’s notorious anti-Israel bias.

“It is precisely because of the attempts to undermine Israel in the UN arena that we look forward to introducing the secretary general to Israel’s true colors, its impressive achievements and its contributions to the world,” Danon stated prior to the visit.

Guterres will also be briefed by IDF officers and security officials who will present him with information on the threats mounting on Israel’s borders, and specifically by Iran in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Guterres’ Test of Leadership

Ron Prosor, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, called on Guterres to “be the man who changes the United Nations for the better.”

In an op-ed published in Israel Hayom on Sunday, entitled “A plea to the secretary general,” Prosor wrote that Guterres’ visit to Israel will be his “first test” of leadership at the UN.

“Please spare us the diplomatic clichés we hear every time some senior UN official makes a visit,” Prosor writes to Guterres. “You must end the double standard, which is in effect a triple standard, by which there is one standard for democracies, another standard for dictatorships and a totally different standard for Israel. You must change the institutionalized discrimination against Israel at the UN with action, not words.”

Guterres will also visit Ramallah on Tuesday, which his office referred to as the “State of Palestine,” for talks with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

He will tour the Israel-Gaza Strip border and visit several UN facilities in Gaza on Wednesday.

By: World Israel News Staff
AP and TPS contributed to this report.