In Qatari-Backed Trip, UN’s Ban Ki-moon Laid Low by Israel’s Peres: ‘Mr. Secretary-General, They Even Use Your UNRWA Schools to Store Their Rockets’
Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday told United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Israel would not stand by while Qatar, which paid for the UN official’s private flight to the Middle East, continued to finance Hamas militants, and took Ban to task for the two UN-run schools found to be housing Hamas rockets in Gaza.
In his last full day in office, Peres, a historically dovish leader, struck a defiant tone in a statement delivered to the media after meeting Ban at the President’s Residence, in Jerusalem.
“Qatar does not have the right to send money for rockets and tunnels which are fired at innocent civilians,” Peres said. “Their funding of terror the must stop.”
Newsweek‘s Benny Avni reported on Monday that the Qatari government paid for the UN Secretary General’s flight through the Middle East, where his first stop on Sunday was Doha, where he denounced Israel’s Operation Protective Edge’s battle in Shuja’iya, a border city that had been overrun by competing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters, and where rockets were hidden in mosques, hospitals, playgrounds and cemeteries connected by tunnels used to infiltrate the Israeli border and attack Kibbutz Nahal Oz a mile away.
Speaking in Doha after meeting with the Qatari regime, Newsweek pointed out, “It was the first time in two weeks that Ban did not mention rocket or other attacks against Israelis.”
“Ban’s choice of Qatar as the first Middle East capital on his trip has raised eyebrows in the region,” Newsweek said. “Egypt, in particular, has bitterly criticized what Cairo’s foreign minister, Sameh Shukri, has called Qatar’s ‘conspiring’ — along with Hamas and its other regional ally, Turkey — against Egyptian attempts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.”
On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Qatar, which has offered to pay for reconstruction in Gaza, was “becoming an international problem” for providing “the financial backbone of the most extreme terrorist groups that threaten stability in the entire world and specifically in the Middle East.”
“Qatar is also a major player in our confrontation against Hamas in Gaza, as it finances Hamas and shelters its leader, Khaled Mashaal,” Lieberman said, according to Newsweek.
On Wednesday, Peres addressed Qatar’s role directly with Ban, saying, “If they want to build then they should, but they must not be allowed to destroy.”
“Instead of investing in education, in healthcare and in building a future for Gaza, Hamas wasted millions on tunnels and rockets,” Peres said. “The people of Gaza are not our enemies. Gaza could have become a center of trade but Hamas turned it into a center of terror.”
“The people of Gaza could have been given hope but instead Hamas brought them destruction,” he said. “Hamas built an infrastructure of terror beneath schools and kindergartens. They use hospitals to launch attacks. They hide in houses and use their children as human shields.”
Then he addressed the UN’s active role in perpetuating the crisis. Peres said, “Mr. Secretary-General, they even use your UNRWA schools to store their rockets,” referring to the two times the UN agency that runs Gaza schools admitted in the past week that their installations were being used to hide missiles, which, according to the UNRWA’s spokesman in Gaza, were actually returned to the militants who placed them there.
“The behavior of Hamas is a criminal act against their own people and ours,” Peres said. “The death of innocent civilians pains me personally and it pains our people. We sanctify life, every life. Hamas glorifies death and they are the ones responsible for the deaths in Gaza. We must say clearly – terrorism will never bring peace. The way to peace is through negotiations, dialogue and compromise.”
President Peres then called on the UN Human Rights Council “to condemn terrorism, especially of Hamas, in the strongest terms. Standing for human rights for all and standing against terrorism are one and the same.”
But he also objected to the UN’s way of doing things: “We reject the idea of appointing a committee to decide who is right and who is wrong,” he said. “Terror is a danger to the world and the fight against it is global. No country will be immune to the threat of terror if we don’t fight it together.”
“Every country has the obligation to protect itself against attacks and attempts to kill innocent civilians,” he said. “No state in the world would be willing to accept rockets fired at its mothers and children from the sky and terrorists emerging from tunnels to kill innocents for no reason and with no justification.”
With the U.S. FAA banning flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport for 24-hours on Wednesday because of Hamas targeting the airport, Peres pointed to the Hamas rockets, not Israeli flights as the problem.
“I regret that airlines have suspended flights,” he said. “The real answer is not to stop flights but to stop the rockets. If airlines will submit to terror then they invite more rocket fire and a greater danger not just here, but across the world.”
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “I have been compelled to visit Israel once again on an urgent mission of peace and solidarity. This is my third such urgent mission during the last five years. The violence must stop now and we must immediately start dialogue which addressed all the root causes which have already been identified, discussed and negotiated for a long time. We don’t have time to lose.”
Accepting the narrative of both sides, Ban said tersely, “Solidarity with Israelis on the rocket fire, solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza under massive assault as the international community strives for a ceasefire in Gaza.”
“I know there is rockets continue to threaten Israeli civilians and disrupt normal life. I have repeatedly condemned it and will continue to do so. There is a deep pain and anguish at the loss among Palestinians. As Secretary-General of the United Nations I will not be silent in the face of this tragedy.”
“Whatever the obstacles, Israelis and Palestinians share a common future and they need hope for political progress and economic prosperity,” Ban said, though his conclusion seemed out of touch with the deep-seeded hatred exposed during the two weeks of intense fighting.
“A future of two states living side by side in peace and security,” he said. “That’s the vision of the two state solution.”