Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly instructed Israeli ministry and military officials to boycott the United Nations Envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, according to Israeli media.
War Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered staff to boycott Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and refuse to work with him. Mladenov drew fire from Israeli officials following a briefing to the UN Security Council last week in which he pummeled Israel for a surge in its illegal West Bank settlement building while demolishing Palestinian homes. He slammed Lieberman’s policy of “the stick and the carrot” which makes part of a preplanned scheme of collective punishment against the Palestinians. Member of the Israeli opposition Tzipi Livni dubbed Lieberman’s decision a threat to the security and interests of Israel.
Haaretz reported that the defense minister’s call to boycott the UN official came in response to Mladenov’s recent criticisms of Israeli policies of illegal settlement expansion across the occupied West Bank, the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, as well as criticism of Lieberman himself.
At a UN Security Council briefing last month, Mladenov condemned Israel, saying: “How will advancing the construction of over 1,700 housing units bring the parties closer to negotiated peace, how will it uphold the two-state solution, how will it create hope for the Palestinian people, or how will it bring security to Israelis?”
Mladenov’s remarks to the Security Council referred to plans advanced by Israel for over 1,000 housing units in the occupied East Jerusalem settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramot, Har Homa, and Gilo, in addition to 735 units in Maale Adumim and other settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has also published tenders for 323 units in occupied East Jerusalem settlements and reissued tenders for 42 units in the Kiryat Arba settlement outside of Hebron’s Old City, for which the state also allocated over $13 million, while reports emerged that new housing units were being planned inside Hebron’s Old City itself for the first time in over a decade.
Mladenov also noted the “so-called retroactive ‘legalization’” of the illegal outposts of Horesh Yaron and Rechelim, and the “potentially precedent-setting” proposal by Israeli lawmakers to lease privately owned Palestinian land to Israeli settlers from the illegal Amona outpost that Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of evacuating.
“Let me be clear,” Mladenov told the Security Council, “No legal acrobatics can change the fact that all outposts — whether ‘legalized’ under Israeli law or not, whether located on state land, or absentee land, or private land — just like all settlements in Area C and East Jerusalem, remain illegal under international law.”
The office of the Israeli prime minister slammed Mladenov’s remarks a day after he made them, saying Mladenov was “distorting history and international law.”
“The Palestinian demand that a future Palestinian state be ethnically cleansed of Jews is outrageous and the UN must condemn it instead of adopting it,” the statement said, using the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ — for which Netanyahu has come under fire for using again recently — to refer to the possible removal of Jewish settlers living in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank in the event of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The statement did not address the mass displacement of Palestinians prior to and following the establishment of the state of Israel which some historians and rights groups have called “ethnic cleansing,” in addition to ongoing Israeli policies of home demolitions and state violence.
Lieberman’s alleged call to boycott Mladenov came on the same day that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon addressed the UN security council in New York on a session regarding the “situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.”
In his remarks to the council, Ban addressed multiple reasons for why he believed “The two-state solution is at risk of being replaced by a one-state reality of perpetual violence and occupation.”
Among them were remarks mimicking Mladenov’s earlier statements about settlement activity, with Ban addressing the fact that in the past two weeks alone, plans were advanced for yet another 463 housing units in four settlements in ‘Area C’ — the area under full Israeli civilian and military control — of the occupied West Bank.
“The decades-long policy that has settled more than 500,000 Israelis in Palestinian territory is diametrically opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state,” he said.
Also noting Netanyahu’s recent “ethnic cleansing” statement, the secretary general said he was “disturbed” by the comments, calling them “unacceptable and outrageous.”
“Let me be absolutely clear,” he said, “settlements are illegal under international law. The occupation, stifling and oppressive, must end.”
“The international community, including the Security Council and the Middle East Quartet, universally views the expansion of settlements as an obstacle to peace.”
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who chaired the UN meeting on Thursday, said he “noted with concern” the revelation that Lieberman was calling for a boycott of Mladenov.
While other Security Council members did not specifically mention Lieberman in their speeches at the meeting, the representatives of France, Russia, the United States and Venezuela all reiterated their support for Mladenov.
According to Haaretz, Lieberman’s office refused to address the reports of his call for a boycott of Mladenov.