In a significant development, Israel announced on Wednesday that it would no longer issue visas to United Nations (UN) officials. This decision came in response to recent comments made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Hamas’s assault on southern Israel in October.
Guterres’s Controversial Remarks
Addressing a UN Security Council meeting, Guterres pointed out that the attacks by Hamas “did not happen in a vacuum.” He drew attention to the longstanding challenges faced by the Palestinian people, including a 56-year occupation, land losses to settlements, violence, and a struggling economy. While he highlighted the Palestinian grievances, Guterres clarified that these issues “cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas,” nor could those attacks justify collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
Reaction from Israeli Officials
Israeli officials were quick to express their disapproval of Guterres’s comments. Some went so far as to demand the Secretary-General’s resignation. They accused him of bias and claimed that his statements legitimized acts of terror.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, mentioned in an interview, “Due to his remarks we will refuse to issue visas to UN representatives. We have already refused a visa for Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths. The time has come to teach them a lesson.”
Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affair and Defense Committee, also voiced his strong disapproval, pointing out that such remarks legitimize heinous acts and undermine any form of condemnation.
The October 7 Atrocities
The remarks made by Guterres referenced the events of October 7, where Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel, with thousands of rockets and gunmen storming the border. The attack resulted in the death of many civilians, and the abduction of several more. Israel responded with intensive strikes on Gaza and advised residents in the northern part of the Strip to evacuate.
UN Chief Faces Backlash
While many Israeli officials have publicly demanded Guterres’s resignation or an apology, Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan accused the UN chief of failing to uphold the “Never again” refrain concerning Jewish atrocities.
The suspension of visas to UN officials by Israel underscores the strained relations between the two entities. It remains to be seen how the international community will respond to this development and what diplomatic measures will be taken to address the rising tensions.