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UN Secretary General Refuses To Back Off Israel Comments

In a New York Times opinion piece published on Jan. 31, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon defended his criticism of Israel’s settlement policy, which had come under fire from Israel’s leadership and been accused of encouraging “terror.”

Ban’s editorial, titled “Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel,” supported his earlier argument that growing Palestinian violence was due, at least in part, to frustration over expansion of Israeli occupation.

On Jan. 26, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Ban’s comments to the UN Security Council fostered extremism and that Palestine was not to be trusted.

"The UN lost its neutrality and moral force a long time ago, and the secretary general's remarks do not improve the situation," Netanyahu said, according to the Middle East Monitor.

In his response, Ban said he “condemns [terrorism] categorically” and that Israeli leaders may simply be lashing out at reasoning they don’t want to hear.

“Criticism of the United Nations — or attacks against me — comes with the territory,” Ban wrote in the editorial. “But when heartfelt concerns about shortsighted or morally damaging policies emanate from so many sources, including Israel’s closest friends, it cannot be sustainable to keep lashing out at every well-intentioned critic.”

Stemming the wave of Israeli occupation and working toward a two-state solution is critical for peace between Palestine and Israel, Ban argued.

“Palestinian frustration and grievances are growing under the weight of nearly a half-century of occupation,” Ban wrote. “Ignoring this won’t make it disappear. No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution.”

Ban’s original comments were in response to a new wave of Israeli settlements by the Israeli Occupation Authorities, which on Jan. 25 approved the construction of 153 new settlement units in the West Bank, the Palestine News Network reported.

Ban also cited the government’s decision to claim 370 acres in the West Bank as “state land” in December 2015, which essentially reserves it for Israeli settler use.

Sources: The New York Times, Middle East Monitor, Palestine News Network / Photo Credit: United States Mission Geneva/Flickr

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