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Israeli envoy accuses PA of ‘anti-Semitic libel’ about COVID-19 during UN row

Danny Danon slams ‘shameless lies’ from Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour, who says Israel’s ‘dispossession, deprivation and oppression’ hamper response to pandemic

Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters on, February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters on, February 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, on Thursday excoriated Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour after Mansour accused Israel of exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in Palestinian areas.

The heated exchange took place during a meeting which the UN Security Council holds each month on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The meetings are currently held via video due to the virus.

Mansour, speaking before Danon, said “the Palestinian situation in this pandemic is unique and painfully acute. Our coping capacities have been depleted by 53 years of this illegal occupation and its constant dispossession, deprivation and oppression.”

“Whatever technical coordination has been achieved between the two sides in recent weeks to combat COVID-19 has been undercut by incessant violations,” Mansour said. “This pandemic has only further highlighted the absurdity, immorality and illegality of Israel’s crimes and the urgency of bringing them to an end right now.”

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour addresses the United Nations Security Council, at UN headquarters, January 22, 2019. (AP/Richard Drew)

The Palestinians have reported 480 cases overall as of Friday afternoon, including in East Jerusalem.

In the past month, the Palestinian Authority has taken a number of drastic measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the West Bank, including heavily restricting freedom of movement.

PA officials have accused Israel of purposefully infecting Palestinians, a claim that Jerusalem has blasted as incitement.

Mansour warned against Israeli annexations of West Bank areas, saying that if it does, “it should not be surprised by the chain of events that will unfold.”

Danon responded, saying “how dare you slander our efforts? How dare you lie about the brave soldiers of the IDF? How dare you blame them of the spreading the virus? They risk their lives to contain the outbreak for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

“Not only are your accusations shameless lies, but they are anti-Semitic. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should apologize for what you have said. You have made it clear that you prefer to hate Israel more than help the Palestinian people,” Danon said.

“The Palestinian Authority would like to have their cake and eat it too. They happily accept any and all assistance from Israel and expect it to continue even as they incite against us and spread anti-Semitic libel,” he said.

A paramedic from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health disinfects Palestinian laborers to help contain the coronavirus as they exit an Israeli army checkpoint after returning from work in Israel, near Ramallah, April 7, 2020. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

He said that Israel has allowed 600 tons of medical supplies into the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, and highlighted coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The UN Middle East peace envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, hailed what he called “inspiring examples of cooperation across conflict lines” in the coronavirus battle, but warned that in the past month there has also been “continued confrontation and fighting, as the human toll of war continues to rise.”

“The dangerous prospect of annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied West Bank is a growing threat,” Mladenov said, arguing that such a move would violate international law and deal a “devastating blow” to the internationally backed two-state solution.

The envoy said annexation would also “close the door to a renewal of negotiations and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement this week saying annexation could potentially go ahead as early as July.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened on Wednesday to cancel all agreements with Israel and the US if the Jewish state moves forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

Abbas has threatened to cancel agreements with Israel on numerous occasions in the past, but has never followed through.

The European Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, on Thursday issued a stark warning against the intention to annex parts of the West Bank, saying that such a move “would constitute a serious violation of international law.”

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