United Nations Secretary General Ben Ki-moon has been angered over what he considered to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "leaking" of the contents of a phone conversation between the two regarding the UN chief's planned visit to Tehran.
On Friday, Netanyahu asked Ban to cancel his plans to participate in a conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, scheduled to take place in Tehran in late August.
"Your trip to Iran is a big mistake, even if it is being done out of good intentions," Netanyahu told Ban in a telephone call, according to the Prime Minister's Office.
Netanyahu said Ban had "acted fairly" during his years leading the UN, adding, "Thus, I was so disappointed to hear about your trip to the Non-Aligned Movement conference in Tehran."
Speaking with Haaretz on Sunday, two Israeli officials indicated that the UN chief was surprised and angered that Netanyahu disclosed the content of their phone conversation without giving due notice.
According to the sources, Ban believed that the Prime Minister's Office's leaking of the conversation, coupled with the Haaretz's publication of the UN chief's intent to visit the Tehran conference, were meant to embarrass Ban, resulting in what he considered to be damage to his international legitimacy.
Following the Friday conversation between the two, the Prime Minister's Office's said the premier saw no reason to visit a country whose government is anti-Semitic and openly declares its intention to destroy Israel.
He noted recent statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about "annihilating the Zionist entity," as well as similar statements by his vice president at a recent UN conference.
Earlier Sunday, in remarks opening the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Netanyahu continued to apply public pressure on Ban, saying that the "secretary general didn't lead me to believe that he would change his plans, but we will continued to push."
"I think this is a worthy and important effort," the premier added.
Several hours following the government's meeting, the National Information Directorate convened a meeting to discuss the various ways to further press the UN chief on the matter.
During the session, it was decided to embark on an international media campaign geared at thwarting Ban's trip to Tehran, a decision made following an internal PMO discussion only, as opposed to in an orderly meeting participated by Foreign Ministry representatives or after consulting Israel's mission to the UN.
The media push has already begun on Netanyahu's official Facebook page, as well as in the "Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel" Faceboook page, which is also run by the premier's staff, and through the Twitter accounts of Netanyahu's foreign press spokesmen Mark Regev and Ofir Gendelman.
In the campaign the PMO is asking web users in Israel and the world to send emails to the UN's official website with a picture of Ban shaking hands with Ahmadinejad with the caption: "Mr. Ban – Your Place Is Not in Tehran!"
The premier's bureau is even asking users to share tweets and posts on the issue with their Facebook and Twitter friends, saying "the entire world needs to tell the UN's secretary general that a visit to Tehran legitimizes an anti-Semitic regime that is determined to destroy Israel."
A senior source in the Foreign Ministry has expressed his reserves from the campaign against Ban, saying he was afraid that the UN chief would see it as a personal attack, something that could further strain his ties with Netanyahu.
"This isn't the enemy of the people, but a leader who is friendly to Israel," the official said, adding that "it was enough that his conversation was leaked, we don't need to push it further. After all, we'll need his help in the near future with the Palestinian bid [for recognition] in the UN General Assembly."
A senior official at the PMO said that the campaign did not target Ban, only his planned trip to Tehran, adding: "There's no intention to hurt him personally but to make him change his mind and prevent him from going to the Tehran conference."
"We think that it's a big mistake," the official said of the UN chief's planned trip.
Sources in the PMO argued on Sunday that the appeal to web users to send emails to the UN chief wasn't an attempt at an attack either, saying: "We suggested that people send reasoned, non-inflammatory requests to the UN chief."
"After the prime minister's official request on the matter, this is a legitimate move," a senior official at the PMO said.
Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky told Haaretz on Sunday that an official announcement had not been made concerning the UN chief's trip to the Tehran conference. According to Nesirky, Ban is not in the habit of referring to private phone conversations with foreign leaders.
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