An uproar over the appearance of leftist groups at the U.N. Security Council Friday continued over the weekend, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared the Betselem group “beyond the pale” of legitimate criticism of Israel, and demanded that the National Service drop the organization from the list of groups to which it dispatches volunteers.
Both Betselem and Peace Now testified in the non-binding Security Council session as to the “shocking” facts of the “injustice known as the occupation of Palestine, and Israeli control of Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” as Betselem chairman Hagai El-Ad said in his speech. Israel “strangles the spirit” of the Palestinians, who are “ignored and neglected,” while Israeli citizens are connected to “a first-world democracy” via a network of roads that have been paved to “a never-ending expansion” of settlements. El-Ad appealed to the Security Council to “act” in order to “end the occupation. We need your help” to do so, he appealed to Council members. Similar statements and appeals were made by Lara Friedman, head of the U.S.-based Friends of Peace Now.
Many Israeli political officials slammed El-Ad and other members of the leftist groups who spoke at the Friday session. Speaking Motzoei Shabbos, Netanyahu said that the groups “have joined the choir of denigrators of Israel and recycled the tired lie that the ‘settlements’ and ‘occupation’ are the reason for the dispute. What these groups are unable to achieve democratically [at the ballot box] they seek to achieve via international attempts to force our actions.
“The truth is that Palestinians have been attacking Israel for 50 years, even before there was one settlement. They continue to attack Israel from Gaza, even after we withdrew from there completely. They attack us in Yehudah and Shomron, demanding not only those territories, but their return to Jaffa, Akko and Haifa. They back these demands up with incitement and violence, and have done so from the day Israel was established,” Netanyahu added.
Netanyahu added that he would personally advance a bill in the next Knesset to change the law on National Service so that Betselem would not receive any volunteers from the National Service. While Knesset legislation is required for that to become official, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel had already on Friday declared that he would no longer approve volunteers for the group, which is under his Ministry’s jurisdiction.
Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon slammed the groups as well. “Two days after the Israel-haters at UNESCO passed a measure denying the historical connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem, these groups, in conjunction with the Palestinians, defame Israel and spread lies. We will continue to fight and tell the truth in the face of all those who spread false stories about us at the U.N. It is a shame that Israeli groups have been drafted into the diplomatic terror war that the Palestinians are waging against us,” he said.
Other political figures voiced similar sentiments. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzippy Hotovely said that the U.N. session discussing settlements “joins a list of activities by Palestinians and their supporters that will not, try as they might, change the facts or the historical reality. The settlements in Yehudah and Shomron are a just and moral enterprise, and are perfectly legal under international law.”
Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon said that he had experienced similar “defamations by leftist groups of Israel at forums around the world. This behavior is revolting.” MK Itzik Shmueli (Zionist Camp) said that even though he agreed with the leftist groups that the settlement enterprise had to end, “running to international institutions like the U.N. is a grave mistake. Its main purpose will be to further demonize Israel.”