UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday and Friday to show his support for the restart of direct negotiations.
Ban, at his request and in an obviously symbolic gesture marking the beginning of the renewal of the talks, will lay a wreath at the grave of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. After that gesture he will meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Ban, who has visited Israel a number of times since taking office in 2007 and was last here in 2012 when he addressed the Herzliya Conference, will arrive from Jordan via the Allenby Bridge Thursday at noon. He is scheduled to go directly to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Palestinian officials.
He is scheduled to spend Thursday night at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel and hold a series of meetings on Friday, one after the other, with Israeli leaders: President Shimon Peres, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and opposition head Shelly Yacimovich. He will then go to Rabin’s grave, followed by the meeting with Netanyahu.
The UN secretary-general will then go to the UN headquarters in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood and meet a group of students from the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon Lezion who are participating in a model UN program.
He then will have dinner there with US special envoy Martin Indyk and US Ambassador Dan Shapiro, before flying out of Ben-Gurion Airport after midnight.
Israeli diplomatic officials said that while Israel has a very rocky relationship with the UN, Jerusalem makes a distinction between the organization – where the Arabs have an automatic majority and which has a number of bodies that blatantly push a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli agenda – and Ban, who is held in high regard, and considered “balanced” and “friendly.”