Israeli diplomacy has raised the temperature of its statements about UN Secretary-General António Guterres, one of its new black beasts. He has been calling for his resignation since October, claiming that Hamas' attack on October 7 – which left more than 1,200 dead and some 240 kidnapped – did not "happen in a vacuum", but after 56 years of Israel's "suffocating military occupation" of the Palestinian people. Now, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is calling Guterres a "threat to world peace" for having taken a decision unprecedented in decades: invoking an exceptional tool – not used since the Lebanon crisis in 1989 – to try to force a ceasefire in Gaza, given "the rapid deterioration" of the situation and the "magnitude of the loss of human life" in "such a short time" in the Strip and in the Gaza Strip. Israel.
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"Guterres' stay in office is a threat to world peace," Cohen reacted around midnight on Wednesday on X (formerly Twitter). "Their call to activate Article 99 and call for a ceasefire in Gaza constitutes support for the Hamas terrorist organization and an endorsement of the killing of the elderly, the abduction of children and the rape of women. Anyone who stands for world peace must support the liberation of Gaza from Hamas."
The country's ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan – who was embroiled in a controversy in October for wearing a yellow star like the one the Nazis forced Jews to wear – has accused the secretary-general of reaching "a new level of moral turpitude". "He has decided to activate this unusual clause only when it allows him to put pressure on Israel, which is fighting the Nazi terrorists of Hamas. It is further evidence of the moral distortion and bias against Israel," he wrote in X.
Erdan also criticizes the secretary for calling for a ceasefire, rather than demanding that Hamas surrender and hand over the 138 hostages remaining in the Strip, "which would end the war." "I again call for his immediate resignation. The United Nations needs a secretary-general who will support the war on terror, not act according to the script written by Hamas."
Dozens of citizens gathered around the destruction caused by an Israeli attack in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, on Thursday.Ahmad Hasaballah (Getty Images)
The exceptional tool invoked by Guterres is Article 99 of the founding document of the United Nations. It states that the Secretary-General "may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which, in his opinion, may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."
Rarely used, it is a key article in the context of international peace and security, and one of the five that assign functions to the Secretary-General in Chapter XV of the UN Charter. It transforms the "secretary-general from a purely administrative official to one with explicit political responsibility," as Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961, once defined him.
It is an appeal to the Security Council, where the veto system allows any of the five permanent members (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France) to block initiatives. This right of veto delayed for weeks the adoption of a binding resolution to create humanitarian corridors. The UN General Assembly, in which all the countries are present, then adopted an equivalent resolution by a majority, which in practice is no more than a call.
Support from Borrell and the Arab League
The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, has come out in defence of Guterres' call, calling for the support of EU members in the Security Council (in its current configuration, only France, with veto power) and "like-minded partners".
I ask the EU members of the UN Security Council and like-minded partners to support @UN Secretary General @AntonioGuterres's call.
The #UNSC must act immediately to prevent a full collapse of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) December 7, 2023
Also the Arab League, one of whose members, the United Arab Emirates ―today in the Security Council as a rotating member― is preparing to present this Friday a draft resolution to call for a ceasefire, in the face of an "apocalyptic" situation of "collective punishment", as described by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Volker Türk. The secretary general of the pan-Arab organization, Ahmed Abulgheit, has given his "firm" support and interprets the use of such an exceptional tool as a reflection of the "seriousness" of the situation, with the Israeli army inside the city of Khan Younis, subject to intense and constant bombardment that has displaced tens of thousands of people towards the city of Rafah. Some of them were already forced to leave the north weeks ago. "The Security Council must take responsibility for this repeated failure," Abulgheit concludes.
Medical staff attended to several wounded at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Wednesday.
Israel's latest anger with Guterres comes at a time of particular tension with the United Nations. On Tuesday, the foreign minister announced that he will not renew the visa, which expires on the 20th, of his humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Lynn Hastings, because of the statements she has made about the war. "We will no longer remain silent in the face of UN bias!" said Cohen on X in making the announcement. The United Nations has regretted the decision and defended that Hastings was "acting with independence, neutrality and impartiality, as it should be".
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