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When UN's Ban Called Netanyahu, Some If-Asked Elements Dropped

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 20 -- Three days after Israel's election, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on March 20 called Benyamin Netanyahu with congratulations and two "urgings," according to the UN read-out:

"The Secretary-General called Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel today to congratulate him on his recent electoral victory.
The Secretary-General told the Prime Minister that he looked forward to working with the new government upon its formation.
"The Secretary-General also urged the Prime Minister to release the tax revenue currently held by Israel but owed to the Palestinian Authority. Lastly, the Secretary-General reiterated his view that the two-state solution was the only way forward and urged the Prime Minister to renew Israel’s commitment to that goal."

Back on March 18, the UN did not issue any statement. Instead, its deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq waited to be asked the question, then read out word for word an "if-asked" about Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's position that was not put online as a statement, nor put on the counter in the UN Spokesperson's office. But here, to compare it with the read-out two days later, is what the if-asked said:

“The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement of the preliminary results of yesterday's Israeli general elections and hopes for the rapid establishment of a new Government that reflects the will of all Israeli voters. It is incumbent on the new Israeli Government, once formed, to create the conditions for a negotiated final peace agreement - with the active engagement of the international community - that will end the Israeli occupation and realize the creation of a viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security alongside Israel. This includes the cessation of illegal settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Secretary-General firmly believes this is also the best and only way forward for Israel to remain a democratic state. He urges the Israeli Government to resume, without further delay, the transfer of the tax revenues it is obligated to dispense to the Government of Palestine in accordance with the Paris Protocol.”

  The reference to the democratic state was dropped; on March 18, Israel's Ron Prosor put out a statement that

"The United Nations may disagree with the policies of the Israeli government, but there is one fact that can’t be disputed - that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Yesterday Israelis went to the polls and 72% of citizens voted – that’s one of the highest voter turnouts in the world. If the UN is so concerned about the future of the Palestinian people, it should be asking why President Abbas is in the tenth year of a five-year presidential term or why Hamas uses the Palestinian people as human shields.”

  The UN's March 20 read-out of Ban Ki-moon's call to Netanyahu dropped several elements of the March 18 If-Asked.

  Back on January 5, days after the UN Security Council rejected Palestine's draft resolution, Palestinian Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour wrote to UN Security Council President Christian Barros of Chile  to complain of Israel's decision to withheld Palestinian tax revenue, calling it piracy.

   Mansour  said “Israel, the Occupying power, has resumed the theft of Palestinian tax revenues in direct retaliation for the legitimate, steps taken by the Palestinian leadership,” including filing to join the International Criminal Court.
  Mansour said “we reiterate such such an action constitutes an act of piracy” and asked the UN Security Council members to “uphold their responsibilities toward addressing this illegal situation in all its manifestations.”

  Inner City Press on January 5 asked Barros about a new Palestine resolution; he said he hadn't been informed of one, formally or informally, but that he'd read media reports there might be a move "next week."

 Now it's been far longer. But now, with the results, how much longer?


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