The pressure exercised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to cancel his trip to the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran apparently boomeranged. According to blogger Colum Lynch, who provides reports and analysis on the United Nations for the Foreign Policy website, the Prime Minister’s Office campaign only convinced Ban that it was vital for him to fly to Tehran and present a peace initiative related to the nuclear crisis.
According to Lynch, senior UN officials “said that Netanyahu's public appeal to Ban -- delivered in what staffers viewed as a condescending tone – backfired, fortifying Ban's resolve to go.”
About a week ago, Netanyahu called Ban to ask him to cancel his appearance at the conference in Iran. But instead of exercising discretion about his conversation with the UN secretary-general, after the call Netanyahu hurried to issue a lengthy press release, in which he detailed everything he had said to Ban on the phone.
Ban’s office was furious that Netanyahu had “leaked” the contents of the conversation, and Ban’s fury only increased when he discovered that within days their conversation had morphed into an entire campaign. The Prime Minister’s Office initiated a social media drive, calling on Web surfers to send e-mails to the UN secretary-general asking him not to fly to Tehran.
At the same time, a series of Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the World Jewish Congress issued press statements harshly criticizing Ban’s plan to travel to the conference in Iran. Ban’s associates were convinced that the attacks by Jewish groups had also been directed by the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
A senior Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem said that Netanyahu’s behavior in this instance had been mistaken, and his attack on the UN secretary-general had been totally superfluous.
“If we had continued making quiet contacts with Ban’s people it’s possible we would have achieved better results,” the official said.
Ban will arrive in Tehran on Wednesday to attend the opening ceremony of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting. At this stage it looks as if the conference will turn into an unprecedented public diplomacy effort by Iran regarding its nuclear program. In front of the building in which the conference is to be held, the Iranians have placed the cars of Iranian nuclear scientists who have been assassinated over the past two years, killings for which Iran blames Israel.
In addition, the Iranians announced that it will offer to take foreign leaders who come to the conference on a tour of the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, and also to visit other nuclear installations in an effort to prove that Iran’s nuclear program is meant solely for civilian purposes.
The Iranians are also looking into organizing a tour of the suspicious military base at Parchin, where the International Atomic Energy Agency has said Iran is conducting nuclear activities with military characteristics.
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