Mladenov: UN and Egypt working to keep Gaza from exploding

The UN has “been able to engage actively and constructively in a very strong partnership with Egypt to keep the situation in Gaza from exploding," Mladenov said.

May 28, 2019 04:06
3 minute read.

NICKOLAY MLADENOV. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The UN has worked “actively and constructively” with Egypt to keep the situation in Gaza from exploding, the UN’s Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Monday.

Mladenov’s comments, at a conference on Israel’s relations with the UN held at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, comes three weeks after the latest round of fighting in Gaza, which saw some 700 rockets fired on Israel from Gaza in a 48-hour period. Mladenov and the Egyptians were instrumental in drawing up understandings that led to an end to the fighting.
 Neither Israel nor Hamas has formally recognized a cease fire, though the violence has been substantially tamped down.

Mladenov said that much of his work in the last few months has been “focused on preventive diplomacy,” an area he said where UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants the UN to focus its efforts – not only on dealing with the aftermath of conflict, but to “try and work with all parties to prevent conflict.”

The UN, Mladenov said, has “been able to engage actively and constructively in a very strong partnership with Egypt to keep the situation in Gaza from exploding, to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, to provide them with electricity, and create temporary and hopefully permanent jobs for them in the belief that this is the only way through which we can avoid this constant cycle of violence that brings Israel and Hamas back into conflict.”

Mladenov said that the longer term issues that “are important for all sides” – namely, a sustained ceasefire, a return of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza, a “normalization of the environment inside the Gaza Strip,” and addressing the humanitarian question of Israeli soldiers and civilians missing in Gaza – “can only be addressed if we have a prolonged period where we avoid full blown war.”

The UN envoy opened his remarks by saying that both he and Guterres’ approach to the organization’s dealing with Israel are based on three fundamental pillars: That Israel is “not a temporary phenomenon or a colonial project, but a respected state and a UN member here to stay”; that it is a “legitimate member of the family of nations”; and that it deserves to “live in peace and security with all states around it.”

Mladenov acknowledged that inside the plethora of UN bodies, “decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees” that deal with Israel on a daily basis.

He quoted former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon as saying shortly before leaving office that the “disproportionate focus on Israel has in fact spoiled the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”

Israel, Mladenov said, “is not a country that should and can be above criticism, but it is a country that should not be singled out in any way and form.” He said that there are numerous components in the UN-Israel relationship, and that one which gets much of the attention is the work being done in Gaza and the West Bank by some 19 UN agencies.

Alon Bar, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for the UN and International Organizations, said that those 19 organizations are precisely responsible for the disproportionate focus that Mladenov was talking about.

“These 19 organizations produce hundreds of reports that at the end of the day adopt almost completely the rhetoric and positions of the Palestinians,” he said. “This is not something done anywhere else in the world, in any other conflict.”

Another diplomat, Yinam Cohen, the Foreign Ministry’s director of its UN political affairs department, praised Mladenov – who has been key in calming down the situation in Gaza – as “the best example about how the UN can operate in a positive manner and give it added value.”

Cohen said that Mladenov has looked for areas of cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians instead of winning political points and engaging in Israel bashing, and that this has given him credibility and – very significantly – access at the highest levels to Israeli decision makers.

In rare public praise from an Israeli diplomat for a senior UN official, Cohen said very few UN officials have been viewed so sympathetically by the Israeli establishment, and that had other UN officials acted in a similar manner, the relationship between Israel and UN would be much better.

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