Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres meet in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Calling for the destruction of Israel is modern antisemitism, but criticizing Israel is normal, especially when many in Israel do so as well, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday.
Guterres, who arrived in Israel Sunday evening, was speaking before his meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the president's residence.
After meeting Rivlin, Guterres held a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said that the UN is failing miserably in its mandate to keep Hezbollah from arming itself.
“I think the most pressing problem we face regards Hezbollah and Syria,” Netanyahu said after welcoming Guterres to his office.
Referring to UN Security Council Resolution 1701 that set the terms for the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Netanyahu said the UN was mandated with preventing weapons shipments to Hezbollah, but that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon has not even reported one of the “tens of thousands of weapons smuggling into Lebanon for Hezbollah, contrary to 1701.”
Guterres responded that “I will do everything in my capacity to make sure that UNIFIL fully meets its mandate.”
He said the he understands Israel's “security concerns,” and that the “idea, intention or will to destroy the state of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective.”
Rivlin welcomed Guterres, on his first visit to Israel since taking up his position in January, by calling upon him to “end the discrimination against Israel in some branches of your organization.”
Rivlin said that Israel appreciates his “brave leadership” in fighting discrimination against the Jewish state in the United Nations.
Targeting and singling out Israel, and taking actions and making statements that threaten to destroy Israel is unacceptable, and should come with a price, Rivlin said.
“No member state in the UN should be allowed to behave like that,” he said. “These actions weaken cooperation between states and are against the rule of law.”
Guterres replied by telling Rivlin that he is committed to the UN charter which places a value on impartiality.
"And impartiality means treating all state equally, and I am totally committed to that in my action and in everything I can do for the organization I lead.”
Guterres said that he agrees that calling for the destruction Israel is a form of modern antisemitism. “But you also understand that I sometimes disagree with positions of the Government of Israel or any other government, and that is absolutely normal in a society where many of your citizens have exactly the same expressions of opinion.”
He added that he will “always be frank” in his dialogue with Israel about ways toward peace in the region, “but we will always be very committed to make sure antisemitism doesn't prevail and that equality in the treatment of all states is fully respected.”
Guterres met soon after his arrival Sunday evening with US negotiator Jason Greenblatt and discussed the diplomatic process as will as the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Monday morning Guterres visited Yad Vashem, which he said serves as a reminder “that we need to be in the first line in fighting against antisemitism, but first of all fighting against all other forms of bigotry, be it racism, xenophobia, even anti-Muslim hatred, to promote understanding and to promote dialogue.”
After his visit to Yad Vashem, Guterres – a former Portuguese prime minister – planted an olive tree in the KKL-JNF Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem forest. The grove was established as part of an initiative by UNESCO and the Council of Europe to establish an Olive Tree Route around the Mediterranean basin as an expression of a desire for peace and coexistence.
Guterres’ maternal family name is Oliveira, which means “olive tree” in Portuguese. He said during the ceremony that when he was born, his grandfather planted an olive tree in his honor.
“That tree remains standing, meaning we have many things in common,” he said.