The United Nations headquarters.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two international leaders delivered their final addresses to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, summing up their views on the state of the world and hopes for the world body after each one’s term ends. UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon focused on the urgent need to halt the Syrian civil war, while US President Barak Obama depicted the three forces arrayed against world progress as religious fundamentalism, aggressive nationalism and crude populism.
But while Ban made brief mention of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he managed to ignore the proverbial elephant in the General Assembly room: terrorism. Instead, he once again blamed Israel for “denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful future.”
Ban lamented the missed opportunity for peace allegedly caused by Jewish settlers. “It pains me that this past decade has been lost to peace. Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide, growing polarization and hopelessness,” he said, adding that West Bank settlements are “obstacles to progress.”
Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon criticized some of Ban’s comments, charging that “the real madness is of the UN’s...Instead of slamming the incitement and the terrorism [on the part of Palestinians], instead of bringing [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] to the negotiating table, the secretary-general has chosen once again to attack Israel,” he said in a statement, adding that this is a “crazy obsession regarding Israel and it must stop.
“At a time when Palestinian terrorism has returned to Israeli streets, the secretary-general has chosen to attack Israel and not the terrorism, and has ignored the direct responsibility of Abu Mazen [Abbas] and the Palestinian leadership who continue to incite terrorism.”
At least six Israelis were wounded in last week’s surge of terrorist attacks, one seriously. Ignoring more than a century of violent Arab opposition to a Jewish homeland, let alone seven decades of ongoing terrorism and continued warfare against the establishment of the State of Israel, Ban chose to maintain the UN obsession with Israel, as expressed so egregiously by the UN Human Rights Council.
Last week, when Ban criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for releasing a video accusing the Palestinian Authority of intending to conduct ethnic cleansing of Jews in a future Palestinian state, Danon accused Ban of having a “distorted view of the situation in Israel...Instead of directly condemning Hamas for building tunnels and a terrorist infrastructure, instead of investing resources in stopping Palestinian incitement and terrorism, the secretary-general has chosen to regularly condemn Israel,” Danon added.
Obama also did not single out terrorism in his address, but rather the “international contest between authoritarianism and liberalism.” This has been aggravated by historic inequality, which technology has made impossible for the masses to ignore. This has led, the president said, to “deep fault lines in the existing international order.” Without mentioning ISIS and ignoring the recent spate of terrorist attacks across Europe, “the leader of the free world” did acknowledge that “across vast swaths of the Middle East, basic security, basic order has broken down.”
Regarding Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian Authority, Obama devoted just a single, half-hearted line of his speech, saying that Israel would be in a better position if only it did not “permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.” To be even handed, he also made mention of Abbas, saying the Palestinians would be in a better position if they were to “reject incitement.”
Obama expectedly gave himself praise for his legacy agreement with Iran, when he noted, “We resolved the Iran nuclear issue with diplomacy.” That said, the US president concluded on a cautionary note that “freedom is in retreat” around the world” – but added somewhat enigmatically, “All of us can be co-workers of God.”
There was plenty of room left for Netanyahu, in his forthcoming speech to the General Assembly, to focus on what Ban and Obama left out. The prime minister said he expected the international community to develop “one standard” in the war against terrorism. Given the double standard the world has just witnessed regarding terrorism, his task will be to bring some moral clarity to the UN.
“The international community says there is a need to fight terrorism with determination and in an uncompromising manner,” Netanyahu said. “Therefore they also need to support Israel’s determined and uncompromising struggle against terrorism.”