Lessons for Guterres: An Israeli reality check for the UN

On Guterres' first trip to the Holy Land as UN Secretary-General.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C) is accompanied by Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon as he tours the Gaza border (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C) is accompanied by Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon as he tours the Gaza border
Last week’s maiden visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres afforded the leader of the world body an encounter with the reality on the ground in the Holy Land that we hope will find expression in a fairer treatment of Israel. This is a tall order considering reality’s shaky ground.
The secretary-general observed the Palestinian Authority in the midst of President Mahmoud Abbas’s accelerating campaign against Hamas, leading Fatah in a second try at winning the hearts and minds of his beleaguered people. Guterres correctly noted that the Palestinians need to unify if they hope to achieve a state.
This is a fond hope, but one that the Arab leaders of the time have dashed again and again, starting with their rejection of an Arab state in Palestine, if this meant having to live alongside a Jewish state. This core element of the original anti-Zionism is still the operating principle of a majority of Palestinian nationalists.
They should have had their own sovereign state in by now, but have been deprived of the opportunity by a series of leaders who were failed terrorists, not nation builders.
Guterres sincerely repeated the mantra that a renewal of negotiations over the problems that exist would allow the two-state solution first envisioned by the United Nations in 1947 to be finally implemented, as if the PA leader were genuinely interested in one.
Guterres solicitously suggested a forward step of taking action to improve the living conditions of Gazans, which he termed “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises that I have seen in many years working as a humanitarian in the United Nations.” But he failed to make the connection between Hamas’s persistent terrorism and its cost to the people of the Gaza Strip.
Taken on a photo opportunity in a former Hamas attack tunnel, Guterres confronted the reality of Hamas' anti-Zionism.
In an encounter afterward with an Israeli resident of Nahal Oz, a kibbutz along the Gaza border, he was asked by Oshrit Sabag about the unnecessary suffering of people on both sides.
“We see a huge amount of money that is used in order to build terrorist tunnels and rockets instead of reconstructing the Gaza Strip,” she said, adding, “We think that the people on the other side of the border suffer from Hamas terrorism just as we do.”
Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai told visiting US negotiator Jason Greenblatt at Nahal Oz the same day that it costs some $200,000 to build an attack tunnel 1-kilometer long. This means that the hundreds of tunnels Hamas built over the years – and continues to dig – have consumed enormous amounts of the foreign aid money that supports its despotic Islamist regime.
This, Mordechai noted, is money that should go instead to building hospitals and improving the living conditions in the Gaza Strip. “But Hamas’s priorities are first the military branches’ interests and terrorism, and only then, as a low priority, supporting the civil population,” he said.
Guterres could have addressed the UN complicity in the preservation of Palestinian statelessness. This has been the true function of the UN Relief and Works Agency, which instead of rehabilitating Arab refugees, keeps them in camps that are now generations old.
UNRWA’s greatest roadblock to a Palestinian state is the unique way it defines them as refugees. Arab residents of Mandatory Palestine who fled in 1948 are the only refugees in the world who bequeath their special status to future generations.
This mistaken attitude is a reflection of how well the actual aggressors against the first Arab state in Palestine have persuaded the world that they were the victims. As Guterres said, “Both have a right to live as independent, free people as masters of their own fate.”
Yes, but while the Zionists built a state from the ground up, Palestinian nationalists have devoted themselves to the terrorism of “the resistance” – of reality.
Recently Abbas threatened to sue Britain for the sin of the Balfour Declaration and, as if that were not absurdity enough, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki two weeks ago pleaded for a “Palestinian Balfour declaration.” There is a simple path to peace, but with Gaza the way it is, that path is moving further and further away.