EXCLUSIVE: Danon says UN envoys ‘shocked’ in visit to Israeli-Lebanese border

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Sunday, 3 February 2019), briefed a delegation of UN ambassadors who are visiting Israel, prior to their flight to a tour of the northern border.  Haim Zach (GPO

EXCLUSIVE: Danon says UN envoys ‘shocked’ in visit to Israeli-Lebanese border

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon who led a group of some 40 other colleague ambassadors during their week-long visit to the Jewish state said they were “shocked” when they saw Hezbollah’s attack tunnels on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) recently concluded its Operation Northern Border to foil the secret attack tunnels dug out by the militant Hezbollah group.

The Likud member and former minister of science and technology in Netanyahu’s government said it was critical to bring UN delegations to Israel to see for themselves the situation on the ground and put a picture to the conflict discussed at length in the international arena.

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“It is crucial to understand it because in the UN we speak a lot about Hezbollah, we speak about Iran funding Hezbollah in Lebanon, but there they actually saw Hezbollah on the other side of the border, they saw the tunnels, they saw the violation of Security Council Resolution 1701,” he told i24NEWS, referring to the UN-established ceasefire in 2006 after Hezbollah attacks triggered a devastating Israeli offensive on Lebanon.

He argued that bringing ambassadors to Israel would help garner support in the international body often admonished by Israeli leaders for its purported bias against the Jewish state.

He said that currently there is “a gap between bilateral relations and the multilateral arena”, claiming that “privately people acknowledge that Israel is doing the right thing, even admire Israel, but [not] when it comes to the general assembly…”

Yet Danon remains “optimistic even about the UN,” arguing that there is a shift in the attitude towards Israel.

He cited the resolution proposed by US Ambassador Nikki Haley to condemn the Palestinian Hamas group that governs the Gaza Strip for firing rockets at Israel.

Although it failed to pass due to falling short of the two-thirds majority required for adoption, he called the resolution a “success” after 87 member states in the general assembly of the UN voted for it. 58 countries opposed the measure and 32 abstained.

He said there were a few governments in Central America and Eastern Europe in talks with Israel to follow the United States’ highly contested decision to move the the embassy to Jerusalem.

So far only Guatemala, the Czech Republic, and Honduras have followed suit.

The Palestinians saw US President Donald Trump’s move recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as breach of their relations, prompting them to shutter its mission in Washington and cut off communication with the Republican administration.

“The Palestinians are conducting a diplomatic terrorism, instead of negotiating, talking with us, with Israel or the United States,” Danon said criticizing their refusal to engage with Trump’s long-promised peace plan.

In contrast, Danon said Israel would at least give the long-anticipated peace plan a look before dismissing it, while the Palestinians “want to decide the outcome of the negotiations without even entering the room.”

Menahem KAHANA (AFP/File)
Most nations avoided moving their embassies to Jerusalem, until Donald Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy there  Menahem KAHANA (AFP/File)

Relations between the Trump administration and the Palestinian leadership have deteriorated, with the US cutting off more than $500 million in aid, including most recently for security coordination — which has been heralded by Israeli officials, including former chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot, as integral to state security and the prevention of terror attacks.

But Danon skirted the issue, saying he would not judge a decision that is up to the United States to make.

Instead he claimed that “Israel cares more about the Palestinians than their leaders do,” reiterating that “$300 million a year, 7% of their budget, goes to sponsor terrorism,” referring to the policy of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to provide financial support to the families of incarcerated Palestinians.

The ambassador hinted that he was ending his “successful” four-year stint at the UN this summer, admitting it was a challenging post but gloating that he lasted longer than his US counterpart Nikki Haley, who stepped down after two years since being appointed by Trump.

Interview with Ami Kaufman on the Spin Room; text and editing by Jonathan Gratch.


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