Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana canceled a planned meeting in New York on Friday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, citing the latter’s claim the night prior that Israel was violating international law in its war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.
“The cancellation of the meeting does not come in a vacuum,” Ohana said in a statement, referencing comments Guterres made in late October that Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel had not happened “in a vacuum.” He went on to note “56 years of suffocating [Israeli] occupation.”
The comments enraged Israeli officials, who called on the UN chief to resign. He later said his statement was misinterpreted and said he condemned Hamas’s attack.
Ohana was set to meet with Guterres as part of a series of meetings in New York City with officials such as New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams.
The Knesset speaker explained that he had intended to meet with Guterres as well despite his past comments “to try and convince him,” but that he ultimately decided not to do so after the UN secretary-general “again called on the State of Israel to stop fighting, criticizing it ‘even if Hamas uses human shields.’”
Guterres said Thursday that Israel has obligations under international law not to harm civilians, even if Hamas uses them as human shields — a practice that the UN chief also condemned.
Ohana called Guterres a “lost cause” and said he had to uphold his “red lines.”
“I will not whitewash Guterres,” he declared.
In the last month, the UN secretary-general has condemned the death toll in Gaza as a result of the war and has repeatedly called for a ceasefire.
Speaking at the UN Security Council, Guterres also said in January that Israeli leaders’ rejection of a two-state solution with the Palestinians is “unacceptable” and will “indefinitely prolong a conflict that has become a major threat to global peace and security.”
On Friday, Guterres tweeted a call for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza and for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”
The war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught on southern Israel, in which terrorists murdered 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 253 others.
The Gaza health ministry, run by Hamas, says the death toll in the Strip has surpassed 27,900 people, though figures from the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, some as a consequence of the terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 terrorists in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 killed inside Israel on and immediately following October 7.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel does not intend on taking administrative control of the Gaza Strip after the war ends, he has said that the Palestinian Authority would not be allowed to take control of it either, accusing it of celebrating terror and inciting attacks.
He has also said that Israel will have to maintain security control over the territory to prevent terrorist attacks from there in the future.