United Nations Secretary General António Guterres began a three-day visit to Israel on Monday, his first to the country since assuming the leadership of the world body in January. Guterres will hold talks with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. He will also visit Ramallah, which his office referred to as the “State of Palestine,” for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
He began his visit on Monday morning at the Jewish National Fund’s Grove of Nations in Jerusalem, where he joined a long line of over 100 world leaders who have planted trees in Israel as a symbol of peace, cooperation, and friendship.
— Meron Reuben (@AmbMeronReuben) August 28, 2017
Both before and since taking office Guterres has expressed support for Israel’s embattled position at the United Nations. Upon assuming office he said he would use his position as secretary general to push the organization to treat Israel “like any other state.” In March, he successfully pressed for a controversial UN report that accused Israel being an “apartheid” state to be shelved.
Guterres has also spoken forcefully about the anti-Semitic nature of many anti-Israel activists, as well as in defense of Israel’s historic ties to the city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
On the other hand, Guterres has been critical of Israel’s “occupation” of Judea and Samaria.
The visit takes place against a background of growing criticism of the United Nations’ performance in the Middle East, particularly along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Last week, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, criticized the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, the UN body tasked with implementing the ceasefire, for failing to act against Hezbollah in the south of the country. As a result the terror group has become entrenched in the civilian population there and has expanded its firepower exponentially.
“Over the past year alone we have shared with the Security Council new information detailing how border towns have become Hezbollah strongholds,” Danon wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “One out of three buildings in the village of Shaqra are now being used to store arms or launch attacks on Israel. We also shared with the council intelligence revealing how the Iranians use civilian airliners to smuggle dangerous arms into southern Lebanon.
“When the Second Lebanon War ended, Hezbollah had around 7,000 rockets. Today, they have more than 100,000,” Dannon wrote.