Israel to Confront U.N.’s Guterres on Bias During Visit

YERUSHALAYIM -
U.N. Israel
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, shown here with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at New York’s City Hall on Thursday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

On the eve of his first visit to Israel, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres was already hearing that at least some Israeli officials will confront him with their dissatisfaction over the international body’s treatment of their country.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Sunday that Israel will “no longer tolerate anti-Israel bias” at the U.N.

Hotovely told journalists that the chronic bias in general and a demand for changing the UNIFIL mandate for policing the ceasefire on the northern border in particular, will be on the agenda during Guterres’s three-day visit.

“We are seeking a dramatic change in the way the U.N. treats Israel. It’s time to place the issue squarely on the table and address it head-on,” Hotovely said, and warned more budget cuts would be coming if changes were not made.

In April, Israel announced its intention to reduce its annual membership payment to the United Nations by $2 million following recent “anti-Israel” votes.

The Foreign Ministry said at the time the decision was made following votes critical of Israel at the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, and condemned the “obsessive discrimination against Israel on the part of the United Nations and its agencies.”

“It’s no longer just us threatening this,” she said. “The U.S. position has changed. Led by Nikki Haley, they have made clear that they will not tolerate bias against us and will no longer be giving an open check.”

Haley called for a change in UNIFIL, citing its failure to keep Hezbollah from entrenching itself near the border with Israel, despite repeated Israel protests.

The Security Council is expected to vote on renewing the mandate of UNIFIL on August 30.

Hotovely said that Hezbollah deployment along Lebanon’s border with Israel would be a “very central issue” in the discussions with Guterres.

“He will meet the head of military intelligence and receive a briefing, and also meet the prime minister, and I am sure that he will not leave here with the feeling that the mandate given to the U.N. is being implemented on the ground,” Hotovely said.

In response to recent complaints from Israel and the U.S., United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, “We have full confidence in (the commander’s) work.”

However, he has acknowledged that problems exist, and told the Security Council that he intended to examine ways for UNIFIL to improve its efforts “regarding the illegal presence of armed personnel, weapons or infrastructure inside its area of operations.”