Lieberman Orders Israeli Defense, Military Officials to Boycott UN Envoy

Decision follows UN Envoy to Middle East Mladenov’s criticism of settlements, treatment of Palestinians and Lieberman himself.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman with generals, summer 2016.
GPO / Ariel Hermoni

The office of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has instructed ministry employees and military officials to boycott UN Envoy to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov, Channel 2 reported last night.

According to the report, the orders were issued following Mladenov’s criticism of Israeli policies on settlement construction and toward the Palestinians, as well as of Lieberman himself.

Two weeks ago Mladenov told the UN Security Council that the illegal expansion of settlements and the lack of Palestinian Authority control in Gaza are the primary obstacles to peace. He added that there had been “a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a sharp response to Mladenov’s remarks, saying they “distort history and international law and distance peace.”

The obstacle to peace, Netanyahu’s spokesman David Keyes said, “is the unending attempt to deny the Jewish people’s connection to parts of their historic land, and the stubborn refusal to recognize that they aren’t strangers there.”

Nikolay Mladenov (center), the United Nations Envoy to the Middle East, during a visit to the West Bank city of Hebron, 2015.
Mussa Qawasma, Reuters

Lieberman’s office refused to address the Channel 2 report. An official source in Mladenov’s office said, “The UN special coordinator for the Middle East is currently in New York, where the UN secretary general will review the latest developments in the field.”

MK Tzipi Livni criticized Lieberman’s decision last night, saying it harmed Israeli interests and security. Livni added it wasn’t the first time Lieberman had instructed his underlings to shun a UN envoy.

“As foreign minister he ordered his office to boycott the former envoy, Robert Serry. Then Operation Protective Edge happened and it emerged that Serry’s role was critical in terms of assessing the IDF’s position in relation to Hamas and the situation in Gaza, as well as for providing UN inspection of humanitarian programs so that Hamas shouldn’t exploit them. That’s also an Israeli interest.”

Livni added, “Lieberman may think that it’s politically wise to attack a soft target like the UN envoy and that it positions him as strong and tough, especially given Israeli contempt for the United Nations, some of it even justified. But this is a mistaken approach that harms Israel. One can and should get angry and argue with the United Nations on positions that are important to us, but we always have to act with restraint and in accordance with our interests.”