Newly-installed United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said on Sunday that Israel should not be discriminated against in the General Assembly.
In an interview with Benny Avni of Israel’s Channel 2, Guterres said that in the General Assembly, “Israel needs to be considered as a state as the same as all the others with exactly the same rights and obligations and without any form of discrimination.” However, he added that in other UN bodies, decisions can be “totally dependent on the governing bodies which are the member states,” and therefore beyond his control.
Avni then asked how Guterres was able to give a speech acknowledging the historical connection between Jews and the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, when UNESCO—the UN’s cultural organization—passed two resolutions denying that history. In an apparent reference to the dichotomy he acknowledged earlier, Guterres responded that the UNESCO resolutions “are positions of the governing bodies of UNESCO.”
“It is clear to me that the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, it was a Jewish temple,” he added. “As it is clear for me today that Jerusalem is today a holy city for three religions. These are the facts that nobody can deny.”
Asked about threats that the United States Congress could defund certain UN activities if the organization continues to disproportionately target Israel, Guterres responded that he had “been in dialogue with members of Congress about this, and I am sure that that dialogue can lead to positive results.”
He asserted that his role was to be impartial and “work in a way in which all member states are treated equally.” He cautioned, however, that he doesn’t “control member states, and this is also beyond the secretariat.”
The Secretary General indicated that while he is “a strong believer in the two-state solution,” he had “no initiative planned” to bring the two sides together under UN auspices.
The UN has long been accused of having a systemic bias against the Jewish state. In 2016, the General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions against Israel and only six on the rest of the world combined, according to the monitoring group UN Watch.
After the UN Security Council voted last month to condemn Israeli construction and other activities that took place beyond the 1949 armistice agreement lines, including in Old City of Jerusalem, the General Assembly approved funding to create a database of companies that do business in those areas, which some fear could be used to bolster anti-Israel boycott efforts.
Earlier that month, then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged his organization’s bias against Israel, saying, “Decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees against Israel.”
The Associated Press reported in June that Israel is the only country in the world that “has its record inspected at every single session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.” The AP added that one of the driving forces behind the UN’s focus on Israel is the influential Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which often spearheads the push for anti-Israel resolutions.
A complete recording of Guterres’ interview is embedded below.
[Photo: DFID – UK Department for International Development / YouTube ]