Netanyahu opposed UN post for former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the appointment of former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a United Nations position.

The United States Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley on Friday vetoed the nomination of Fayyad to serve as UN peace envoy to Libya.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Fayyad as his choice last week, and set Friday as the deadline for members of the Security Council to oppose it. The nomination had been expected to pass.

Haley, in a statement, said that the United States did not “support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations,” where the state of Palestine does not have full membership. “For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” the statement also said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Saturday that Fayyad was nominated “solely based on Mr. Fayyad’s recognized personal qualities and his competence for that position.” He added that in such a position a UN diplomat does not represent a particular government or country.

Netanyahu said on Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting that “several days ago I was informed of the possibility of the appointment of Salaam Fayyad to a UN position. I said that the time has come for reciprocity in the UN’s relations with Israel and free gifts cannot be constantly given to the Palestinian side. The time has come for positions and appointments to be made to the Israeli side as well. Should there be an appropriate appointment, we will consider it.”

Haaretz reported on Saturday that Israeli lawmaker Tzipi Livni received a call over the weekend from Guterres offering the position of under-secretary-general, citing unnamed UN officials. Livni’s office has denied that the lawmaker received an official offer.

Such an appointment is reportedly seen as a deal whereby the U.S. would lift its objection to Fayyad and both appointments would be approved by the Security Council, according to Haaretz.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon  praised the U.S. decision to veto Fayyad’s nomination: “The new administration proves that it stands with Israel in the international arena at large and at the UN specifically, working toward the two countries’ mutual interests. This is the start of a new era at the UN, in which the U.S. stands with Israel against anti-Israeli initiatives.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, called the veto  “blatant discrimination on nationality basis and we absolutely reject it. … For the Americans to block his appointment only because he is Palestinian is sheer discrimination against Palestinians.”

He added: “Fayyad’s nomination has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli struggle or the Palestinian cause.”