UNSG BAN goes to Gaza, again, where his car is pelted with shoes — then is lauded as he addresses Herzliya Conference

About the shoe-throwing [a now-comic sign of disrespect for the target]: the first report was from the Al-Arabiya correspondent travelling in the convoy of UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon as it entered Gaza.

Then, Ma’an News Agency did a story, saying that “Dozens of people threw shoes and stones at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s convoy as it entered the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Ma’an’s correspondent said.

Ma’an reported that the SG’s convoy sped away, and the UN Chief later tried to make a joke out of the incident: “I thank the people of Gaza for the warm welcome … I met many people who were waiting for me at the entrance”.

Ma’an added, in its report, that “Many of those who protested as the UN convoy passed were family members of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. They hit the vehicles with signs bearing slogans accusing Ban of bias towards Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of Palestinian prisoners. A spokesman for deportees from the Israeli siege of Bethlehem’s Nativity church in 2002 called on Ban to defend the rights of the Palestinian people, including detainees and deportees. A number of Gazans whose homes were destroyed in Israel’s war on the coastal enclave in 2008 held up signs reading ‘Gaza is living in darkness’, and ‘Save the children of Gaza’, Ma’an’s correspondent said”. The Ma’an report, published here also noted that “Reuters contributed to this report”.

Apparently, UNSG BAN did not say, when in Gaza, what he said a day earlier while meeting Israeli leaders in Jerusalem: according to a report in Haaretz, BAN said after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that: “Settlements do not help the peace process … I told the prime minister that he should refrain from future construction. I believe that Israel can have a major positive influence on the entire region” [and Netanyahu told Ban, Haaretz reported, that the settlement issue “is a part of the negotiations, it can’t be a precondition”]. BAN also said, in the joint press conference with Netanyahu, that “Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip must stop. It is time for both sides to take confidence building measures. I call on Israel to make certain gestures toward the Palestinians. Middle East peace has a global influence and this is the reason why peace talks must continue.” This was reported here.

So, while BAN says, when with Palestinians, that he agrees Israeli settlements are “illegal” [he later repeats this, but so quickly in passing that it is almost imperceptible, in the Herzliya Conference], he tells Netanyahu that “settlements do not help the peace process”. And, while he says in Israel that “Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip must stop”, he does not repeat this while in in Gaza. This, apparently, is diplomacy.

A subsequent statement issued by a spokesperson for the UNSG said: “Today the Secretary-General travelled to Gaza and visited a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) housing project and a school where he joined girl students in their classroom. He also met with children who suffered serious injuries during the conflict. He was deeply moved by their stories. Unfortunately representatives of civil society cancelled a scheduled lunch to protest against the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The Secretary-General regrets this missed opportunity for an important exchange with Gazan civil society representatives. The Secretary-General is concerned about the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Last night [n.b. — at the Muqata’a in Ramallah] he met with the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs, Issa Karake, and received a letter outlining specific concerns. The United Nations continues to call on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law”.

The PLO [in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority] later issued a statement of apology for the sign of disrespect in Gaza.

Reconciliation talks between the PA/Fatah in Ramallah + their Hamas rivals in Gaza are proceeding with deliberate slowness.

In the evening, BAN was back in Israel. The contrast could not have been greater. BAN gave one of the keynote addresses to the annual Herzliya Conference [held in the suburb where many diplomats posted to Israel live, just north of Tel Aviv], where he was courteously praised in the introduction, and here are some excerpts from BAN’s remarks:

    The UN helped to bring the State of Israel into this world — it did so in the name of peace, not war,
    yet the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is in its 7th decade…

    The current peace process that began at Madrid Peace Conference more than 20 years ago raised high hopes but delivered 2 decades of delay mistrust and missed opportunities…

    A succession of failed peace talks created a climate of mistrust, and many have come to question the basis of the current peace process: land for peace…

    A welcome + positive development in recent years has been the emergence of a credible Palestinian leadership serving its people + in some ways challenging Israel to rethink some of its assumptions…

    In some ways PA is ahead of the regional curve: In the West Bank it is building the institutions for a functioning democracy and a future Palestinian state. Yesterday I once again visited Ramallah
    and was also struck with professionalism of [PA] security forces as well as a broader sense of economic + social progress…

    Yet these advances are at risk. Why? Because politics is not keeping pace with developments on the ground…

    Negotiations have bogged down…

    We see too many pointless provocations. Israel continues to construct settlements — some in the most sensitive places … Meeting with Palestinians in the West Bank yesterday, I heard their frustrations. I repeat, the international community’s position is well known: these settlements are illegal. and I strongly agree …

    They can also be expected to bring their case for statehood to the UN + its various funds + programs, as they already did with UNESCO…

    We must work together to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza … to strengthen the institutions of mutual security in the West Bank and to develop a climate of tolerance + mutual acceptance between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory…

    A negotiated peace must rest on accepted principles of self-determination in their own democratic state …
    Israel must think carefully of how to support those who work for peace …

    Now is the moment for demonstration of good will by both sides…

    Israel can open Gaza for more construction materials I thank [Israel’s Defense] Minister [Ehud] Barak for his
    flexibility [BAN Ki-Moon was then burned on Twitter for that remark]… [But] what I’m asking you is to do more, to enable all those Palestinian people to live in more comfortable situation, circumstances … And for people to live normal lives they have to have schools, decent jobs, and healthcare, and they have to have jobs … Palestinian poverty is not Israel’s friend…

    Our highest priority is to return to negotiations — not just to procedural talks, but genuine + substantive
    negotiations to resolve the core issues… Both sides should understand the profound costs if they lead nowhere…

    I went to Amman to get their [the Jordanian] assessment + expectations of talks, and I faithfully delivered + discussed / conveyed [what I learned] to both Israeli + Palestinian leaderships … and I told King Abdullah I would do anything possible to advance negotiations…

    I told both leaders that this is the moment — to try to rebuild the confidence + momentum that has so sadly and so needlessly been lost … Neogotiations will go nowhere without shared sense of urgency and will: Palestinians must engage seriously on security, and Israel must engage seriously on territory ….

    There must be an end to six decades of occupation, a just solution of all core issues, + the creation of a
    Palestinian state living side by side … I have spoken seriously because I believe time is running out…

    The world is ready to help ensure Israel’s security, just as it is ready to help Palestinians establish a new
    nation that is long overdue.

A video of UNSG BAN Ki-Moon’s speech at the Herzliya Conference is posted here.

Army Doctor who headed Israeli Field Hospital (in Haiti) also took part in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza

On Sunday (January 31) at the high-powered 10th annual Herzliya Conference in Israel, the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz recently denounced the Goldstone report on last winter’s war in Gaza by saying that “The Goldstone report is a Trojan horse; it gives terrorist organizations legitimacy to fight us from urban populations … [By contrast] Our moral soundness is clear after dozens of investigations and interrogations. The famous army doctor who was head of the Israeli field hospital [in Haiti, presumably] also took part in Operation Cast Lead.”

The Israeli IDF delegation sent to help in Haiti’s post-earthquake emergency was headed by OC Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.  Surgeon General, Brig. Gen. Dr. Nachman Ash was a member of the delegation, as was Lt. Col. Dr. Benjamin Sender,  Chief Medical Officer for the Israeli Military, and Col. Dr. Yitzhak Kreiss (Itzik Kryce), who served as the administrator of the Israeli field hospital in Haiti.

Gantz also said in his address to the Herzliya Conference that “Israel must make it clear that while we share a number of values with the West, there is a basic difference. We live with our values in a war zone. This fusillade does not allow us to respond any other way. We must remove this threat. We cannot remain victims”. Maj. Gen. Gantz also said that during Operation Cast Lead, his mother, who passed way five months ago, told him: “Don’t stop sending food to Gaza, but don’t stop fighting either.”

This was reported by the IDF press unit here.