(photo credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman indicated Tuesday that it was unlikely Israel would expel UN Mideast envoy Robert Serry, but that in any event his seven- year term would expire at the end of the year.
On Sunday, Liberman convened a meeting in the Foreign Ministry to discuss whether the Dutch diplomat should be declared persona non grata for allegedly trying to facilitate, through UN agencies, the transfer of funds from Qatar to Hamas to pay salaries in Gaza. Serry has rejected those claims.
While saying that the ministry was still weighing how to deal with the envoy – the options range from expulsion to a reprimand – Liberman told Israel Radio that Israel’s message regarding Serry “has been clearly received in the UN.”
“It was important to send the message that we will not agree to the UN trying to cleanse Hamas terrorists and give them legitimacy,” Liberman said. He added that Israel was in contact with the senior UN leadership about this issue, and that sending a strong message was “one of the reasons” for the ministry’s deliberations about Serry.
He said that the diplomat would be leaving the country at the end of the year, without any connection to Israel’s decision.
The Hamas funding allegations were the last straw in a long history of what Liberman viewed as Serry’s imbalanced approach since the latter took office in 2007.
Although UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quickly condemned the kidnappings of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach, no similar statement came from Serry’s office – though he did issue a statement on Friday condemning Israel for its hunt for the teens in the West Bank. And in April, he accused Israel of barring diplomats and Palestinians from participating in a pre-Easter religious ceremony – a charge Israeli officials denied, saying that he was inflating a “micro-incident” to make Israel look bad before the May visit of Pope Francis.