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UN Secretary General Guterres to address World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in New York

Amid mounting concerns about the bias against Israel at the United Nations, the world body’s new secretary general, António Guterres, will speak to the more than 600 representatives of Jewish communities in over 90 countries who are gathering in New York from Sunday through Tuesday for the Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

Guterres’ speech at the opening dinner on 23 April 2017, at 18:00 EST (6 o’clock p.m.), marks the first time the UN’s most senior official will address such a gathering of international Jewish leaders.

The Plenary Assembly, which is supreme decision-making body of the WJC, will hear reports about the situation of Jewish communities world-wide and discuss major issues, including anti-Semitism and the rise of extremist political movements.

A WJC-commissioned report will be presented that details the proliferation anti-Semitism on the internet, and policies to combat such phenomena will be discussed. The delegates will also elect the WJC leadership for the coming four-year term. Current WJC President Ronald S. Lauder is standing for re-election.

Other speakers at the event include UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (tbc), Israeli Minister of Intelligence and of Transportation Yisrael Katz; Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, US Representatives Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey and Lee Zeldin, European Commission Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein, as well as the Jewish Nobel Prize laureates Roald Hoffmann (Chemistry), Daniel Kahneman (Economics) and Eric Kandel (Medicine).
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Press Conference: PM Netanyahu with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon


Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Mr. Secretary, I appreciate the fact that you came here and that you took time to see what we’ve just shown you. I think it’s clear that Israel is doing what any country would do if terrorists rained down rockets on its cities and towns – hundreds of rockets, day after day, week after week. In addition, as I’ve shown you, Hamas has dug terrorist tunnels under hospitals, mosques, schools, homes, to penetrate our territory, to kidnap and kill Israelis.

Now, in the face of such wanton terrorism, no country could sit idly by. It would exercise its right, inherent and legitimate right of self-defense as we are doing, and act decisively to end the threat to its citizens. This is what Israel is doing. We did not seek this escalation, Mr. Secretary. We accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. I don’t need to remind you it was a proposal that was supported by the UN, by the Arab League, by the United States, by Europe. Hamas rejected it. We accepted the humanitarian ceasefire proposal that the UN proposed afterward. Hamas rejected that. We accepted the ceasefire proposal of the Red Cross in Shejaia. Hamas rejected that, twice. I think the international community must take a clear stand; it must hold Hamas accountable for consistently rejecting the ceasefire proposals and for starting and prolonging this conflict. The international community must hold Hamas accountable for its increasing and indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians. And the international community must hold Hamas accountable for using Palestinian civilians as human shields deliberately putting them in harm’s way, deliberately keeping them in harm’s way.

Mr. Secretary, we have made every effort and will continue to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. We are targeting Hamas terrorist targets. We’ve just shown you these targets, embedded in civilian areas, embedded in mosques, embedded in hospitals, embedded in agricultural schools. Hamas is embedded in there in order to sustain civilian casualties, because they know that we will have to protect our citizens; that we have to act against their targets. So they are committing a double war crime: both targeting our civilians and hiding behind their civilians. And they want, I repeat: They want more civilian casualties, whereas we want no civilian casualties at all, and we’re taking the utmost pain to minimize that. I think the people of Gaza, and that’s become absolutely clear to the world, are the victims of the brutal Hamas regime. They are holding them hostage and they are hiding behind them.
You know, Mr. Secretary, the international community has pressed us to give cement to Gaza to build schools, hospitals, homes. And now we see what has happened to those deliveries of cement. They have been used to dig tunnels next to a kindergarten, not to build a kindergarten but to build a tunnel that penetrates our territory so that Hamas can blow up our kindergartens and murder our children. They’ve used for a long time our willingness to try to keep civilians at a minimum. They’ve been using them to keep on firing at us. We have even opened up a field hospital, Mr. Secretary, to help Hamas civilians, and Hamas is preventing civilians of Gaza from going to our hospital. I believe that you understand this. I believe that you understand that it is the right of every state to defend itself. And Israel will continue to do what it needs to do to defend its people.
Mr. Secretary, this is not only our right; this is our duty.

US Secretary General Ban:

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Shalom, ladies and gentlemen.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you again for your warm welcome. It’s always a pleasure to visit, for me, Israel. But this time I am standing with a very heavy, heavy heart. As we speak, rockets from Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to be fired on Israel. I have just seen myself, with the Prime Minister, all kinds of rockets fired by Hamas onto the heads of these people and neighborhoods of where many people are living. This is quite shocking. And I have seen all these photos and videos and evidences myself. The United Nations’ position is clear: we condemn strongly the rocket attacks.
These must stop immediately. We condemn the use of civilian sites, schools, hospitals and other civilian facilities for military purposes. Your country won’t accept rockets raining down on its territory. And all countries and parties have an international obligation to protect civilians. I extend my deep condolences to the Prime Minister and to the people of Israel on the fatalities from the recent escalation. We’ll not forget the killing and abduction of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftaly Frankel. I was deeply moved by the words of Rachel Frankel as she buried her own son. I quote: “We will learn to sing without you,” she said. “We will always hear your voice in our hearts.” And she went on to reach out to the family of Muhammad abu Khdeir, the 16-year-old boy burned alive simply because of who he was. Mrs. Frankel said, I quote: “No mother or father should ever have to go through what we are going through, and we share the pain of Muhammad’s parents.” End quote. It is that spirit of shared anguish, humanity and hope that calls me here. Too many Palestinian and Israeli mothers are burying their children. We owe it to their sacrifice and to Israeli and Palestinian aspirations for peace, to intensify efforts to find a solution.

Over the last three days I have met with the leadership in Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt. I met President Abbas in Qatar and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Cairo yesterday. This is all part of a concerted international effort for urgent action. My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: Stop fighting! Start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year. We must address these underline issues, including mutual recognition, occupation, despair and denial of dignity, so people do not feel they have to resort to violence as a means of expressing their grievances. Military actions will not increase Israel’s stability and security in the longer time. I fully share and appreciate the legitimacy, the security concerns and right to defend your country and citizens. Israel is a democratic strong country, and I urge you to demonstrate fortitude by exercising maximum restraint. Recovery and reconstruction work is more needed than ever. Governance issues must be addressed by one legitimate Palestinian government adhering to the PLO commitment – non-violence, recognition of Israel and respect for previous agreements. The United nations will continue to support these efforts.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am always energized to find my visit to Israel and the region. Even in the darkest hours, the people of this country have such a tremendous capacity for generosity and good. I understand that some may feel threatened by negative regional developments and disenchanted with the peace process, but there is no viable alternative to a two-state solution. No closure, no barrier can separate Israelis and Palestinians from a fundamental truth: you share a common future. You have my strongest possible commitment that I will to do all I can for lasting peace and security, freedom and justice for all Israelis and Palestinians.
Thank you, Toda.


Prime Minister Netanyahu:

Mr. Secretary, I’m going to say a few words in Hebrew to the people of Israel, but I do want to say that you spoke about the regional developments. What we’re seeing here with Hamas is another instance of Islamist extremism, violent extremism that has no resolvable grievance. Hamas is like ISIS; Hamas is like al-Qaeda; Hamas is like Hezbollah; Hamas is like Boko Haram. And there are so many other of these Islamist groups that defy modernity, that reject pluralism, that reject respect of human rights. That use their own people as human shields, that attack indiscriminately civilians. This is part of a larger pattern. What grievance can we solve for Hamas. Their grievance is that we exist. They don’t even want a two-state solution. They don’t want any state solution. Some of them say they should open a great movement and dissolve all the regimes around us. And therefore in the face of such extremism, in the face of such violence, in the face of such terror, Israel has no option but to defend itself. This is what we’re doing, as is our right. We have sought to end this from the start with ceasefires, and as I told you, they refused and they continue. So we will do what we need to do to defend ourselves.
[The following is translated from Hebrew]
Citizens of Israel, I have explained to the United Nations Secretary General, who came here in friendship, that we must defend ourselves. It is our right. The IDF will continue to hit Hamas terror targets hard, until we achieve the goal of the operation – restoring a long-term quiet for the citizens of Israel, while dealing the terror infrastructure a harsh blow.

I must tell you that your forbearance has allowed us to run this operation rationally, wisely and in the correct way. Your resilience is a strategic asset to the State of Israel; and Hamas, who thought it could break our home front easily, was taken by surprise.
On behalf of all Israel’s citizens, on your behalf, I send condolences to the families of the fallen, I wish a speedy recovery to those injured and I pray for our soldiers.
We are defending our home, we will protect our home.
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FM Liberman meets UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Israel's concern regarding the agreement signed with Iran is based on real facts. We continue to witness Iranian activity undermining world stability - in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere.


Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met on with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York. During the meeting, they discussed the agreement signed between the P5+1 and Iran, the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, developments in the Middle East, and relations between Israel and the United Nations.

FM Liberman said that Israel's concern regarding the agreement signed with Iran is based on real facts. Just a day before the agreement was signed, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei likened Israel and the Jews to an untouchable rabid dog, and said that Israel is destined to vanish. Today, we continue to witness Iranian activity undermining world stability - in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere. Several weeks ago, an Iranian operative planning to kill the Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan was arrested in Baku.

FM Liberman noted that the agreement with Syria included real steps to remove and destroy its chemical weapons, unlike Iran which is not prepared to relinquish its nuclear ambitions.

With regard to the talks with the Palestinians, FM Liberman said that the Palestinian approach is harming the chances to advance negotiations through unilateral action to gain acceptance to 16 UN-related bodies. Moreover, their public statements that they are only waiting for the release of another group of prisoners before withdrawing from the talks are leading the talks to an impasse. FM Liberman asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to act to alter the Palestinian approach.

FM Liberman noted that the settlements constitute in total only 1.5% of the land in Judea and Samaria, and do not constitute an obstacle to peace but rather an excuse for those who do not want peace.

FM Liberman noted that Israel has taken a difficult decision to resume cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council, in the hope that its activity will be more balanced, at least with regard to the Western states.

The meeting was cordial, and the Secretary General congratulated Liberman on his return to the position of Foreign Minister.

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