UN Chief Offered Israeli Lawmaker Tzipi Livni a Senior Role

Officials in UN believe offer to name Livni under-secretary-general is a deal: U.S. will go back on its block of ex-Palestinian premier's UN job, in return Livni's position will be okayed by Security Council.

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Tzipi Livni at the INSS conference in January 2017.
Tzipi Livni at the INSS conference in January 2017.Credit: Moti Milrod
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

Israeli lawmaker Tzipi Livni may soon be appointed to a senior role in the United Nations. Over the weekend, Livni (Hatnua-Zionist Union) received a phone call from UN Chief Antonio Guterres, who offered her the position of under-secretary-general.

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The UN chief has many under-secretary-generals, and if Livni accepts the offer, she'll become the first Israeli to serve in that position. The appointment ultimately depends on the UN Security Council's approval.

Officials in the UN see the offer as a deal: The U.S. will take back its opposition to the pick of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of the UN mission to Libya, and in return Livni's appointment will be greenlit. Livni's office said that "no official offer has been received."

Livni and Guterres are acquainted from his term as Portugal's prime minister when she served as Israel's foreign minister in Ehud Olmert's cabinet in 2006-2009. About two weeks ago Livni visited New York for one day, for a personal meeting with the UN chief. They were supposed to meet in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the Economic Forum, but Livni's flight was delayed and the meeting was canceled. Guterres called her, saying that he would be happy to meet her soon in his New York office. Two days after she returned from Davos, Livni hopped on a plane to New York.

Among other things, the two discussed the possibility of Livni's appointment. It appears that this is not the first time Livni has shown an interest in a position in the UN. Past reports said that she worked toward that goal during the time of the former UN chief, Ban Ki-moon. Livni denied the reports. Three years ago, she also denied reports that she will work together with Tony Blair, then the Middle East Quartet's envoy.

The possibility that Livni will choose to switch her Knesset seat for the senior diplomatic role should come as no surprise. She is a regular guest at international conferences and events abroad, to which she has been invited since she served in the Foreign Ministry as well as her stints as justice minister and the leader of the negotiations with the Palestinians in Netanyahu's previous cabinet.

After the last election, Livni has been looking for a new way in Israeli politics. Her options have ran out: Her bid to form a large center-left bloc, led by her, ran aground, mainly due to Yair Lapid's refusal to cooperate. A scenario in which she runs again at the head of her Hatnua party is impossible. On the other hand, most chances are the Zionist Union in its current formulation will not run again. With these prospects in mind, the UN appears to be an honorable way out.

A previous version of this article erroneously referred to the position offered to Livni as "deputy." The article has since been corrected.

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