After objection to Palestinian candidate, UN to nominate Israeli politician accused of war crimes

Published February 12th, 2017 - 03:00 GMT
Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, December 3, 2014. (AFP/File)
Israel's Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, December 3, 2014. (AFP/File)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has reportedly offered a post of deputy secretary-general to former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

According to the Haaretz, an Israeli daily, Livni, who now heads the Hatnua Party and is number-two on the Zionist Union faction in the Knesset, was asked to join the world body by Guterres himself in a phone call over the weekend.

Her appointment would have to be approved by the UN Security Council.

The Israeli politician has been implicated in war crimes during her tenure as foreign minister during the War on Gaza in 2008-2009.

Last year she was summoned for questioning by British authorities when she arrived in London to attend a Haaretz conference.

She was later granted immunity by authorities by changing the status of the trip to official.

The offer comes amid a row at the UN over the proposal to name former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad the organisation's envoy on the Libya conflict.

The US has blocked the appointment at the request of Israel's ambassador Danny Danon.

Israel and the US reportedly fear the appointment of Fayyad, a former World Bank economist, is meant as a further signal of recognition for Palestinian statehood. The UN General Assembly voted to recognise a Palestinian state in 2012, granting Palestine the status of non-member observer state.

According to Haaretz, the offer to appoint Livni is meant as a quid pro quo, and would mark the highest-ever position attained by any Israeli at the UN in exchange for the US allowing Fayyad's appointment through.

The offer is still in the works, the report suggested. Livni's office told Haaretz that "no official offer has been received."

Livni and Guterres have met twice in New York over the past three weeks.

On Saturday Guterres defended his choice of Fayyad to be the UN peace envoy to Libya.

The decision to put forward his candidacy "was solely based on Mr Fayyad's recognised personal qualities and his competence for that position," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"United Nations staff serve strictly in their personal capacity. They do not represent any government or country."

Guterres had informed the Security Council on Wednesday of his intention to appoint Fayyad and set a deadline of Friday for members to raise objections.

Diplomats said Fayyad's name had been floated for a while and that US Ambassador Nikki Haley did not raise any opposition during those consultations.

Haley said in a statement on Friday that the United States did not "support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations," where the state of Palestine does not have full membership.

"For too long, the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel," she said.
The Palestinians were upgraded to non-member observer status at the United Nations in 2012.

Dujarric said no Israeli and no Palestinian had served in a high-level post at the United Nations, and that "this is a situation that the secretary-general feels should be corrected," based on personal merit and competencies of the candidates.

The UN chief seeks the unanimous backing of all 15 council members for appointments of his special representatives to conflict areas.

France and Sweden came out in full support of Guterres, praising his choice of Fayyad, a former World Bank official with a track record of fighting corruption.

The US decision to block the appointment surprised Guterres, whose choice of Fayyad was his first appointment of an envoy to a conflict area since he took over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1.

"Based on the information available to him at the time, the secretary-general had the perception, now proven wrong, that the proposal would be acceptable to Security Council members," Dujarric told AFP.

Fayyad, 64, was prime minister of the Palestinian Authority from 2007 to 2013, and also served as finance minister.
He had been tapped to replace Martin Kobler of Germany, who has been the Libya envoy since November 2015.

Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the US decision as "blatant discrimination."

US President Donald Trump and Haley have criticised the United Nations for adopting a resolution in December that demanded an end to Israeli colony building.

"Going forward, the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies," Haley said.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre praised Fayyad as a public figure with "great qualities who is unanimously well-regarded for his experience and expertise" and said France has "full confidence" in the UN chief's personnel appointments.

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, whose country has recognised Palestine, said it was the secretary-general's "prerogative to independently select and appoint his representatives," adding that Fayyad would be an "excellent" envoy on Libya.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon applauded the American decision, describing it as "the beginning of a new era where the US stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish state."

The council will discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday, the same day that Trump is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

 


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