Turtle Bay Talk

Blinken, Cohen urge support for Israel at divided United Nations 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ remarks drew sharp condemnation from Israel’s foreign minister and U.N. ambassador

Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Imates

Holding a poster of some of those being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen speaks during a U.N. Security Council meeting on the conflict in Middle East at the U.N. headquarters in New York City on October 24, 2023.

Warning of dire consequences for the West if Hamas is not destroyed, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen addressed the United Nations Security Council Ministerial in Manhattan on Tuesday, seeking support from the divided 15-member council in persuading Hamas to release the more than 200 hostages still held captive in Gaza. 

Several family members of the people being held hostage accompanied Cohen to the U.N. 

“Hamas are the new Nazis,” said Cohen, who played for the assembly a recording on his phone of the terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre in Israel and also recited names and ages of some of the kidnapped children “What is the proportionate response for killing babies?” he continued, “the response is total destruction of Hamas. [It’s] not only our right but our duty. Today Hamas hits Israel, tomorrow it will be at everyone’s doorstep. Their dream is the world, exactly like the Nazis.”

Cohen added that the U.N. “has no moral justification to exist” if it doesn’t stand by Israel, singling out U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ leadership.

“If all nations do not stand by the basic value, the basic value of humanity described in the U.N. Charter, this will be the darkest hour of [the] United Nations under you, Mr. Secretary,” Cohen said, warning that if Hamas is allowed to continue its violence, “The West is next.” 

Following the meeting, Cohen announced he would no longer meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who in his opening remarks made the claim that “the attacks by Hamas didn’t happen in a vacuum,” but were rather sparked by “56 years of suffocating occupation.” 

Guterres added, “The grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” For the most part, his speech focused firmly on the plight of those living in Gaza, with little mention of Israel or its citizens.

“I will not meet with the UN Secretary-General,” Cohen wrote on X. “After the October 7th massacre, there is no place for a balanced approach. Hamas must be erased off the face of the planet!” 

Guterres’ remarks also drew sharp condemnation from Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, who called on the secretary-general to step down and threatened that Israel will “reassess” ties with the U.N. “The UN Secretary-General, who shows understanding for the campaign of mass murder of children, women and the elderly, is not fit to lead the UN,” Erdan tweeted. “I call on him to resign immediately.” 

Erdan said during a press conference that Guterres’ remarks “support terrorism– there’s no other way to explain it.”

“Israel’s government will reassess our relations with the U.N.,” Erdan continued. 

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken echoed to the council that the Israel-Hamas war could spill over into a wider war. Blinken warned that Washington would act swiftly and decisively if Iran or its proxies attack U.S. personnel anywhere, noting that Lebanon’s Hezbollah is supported by Tehran.

“The United States does not seek conflict with Iran. We do not want this war to widen. But if Iran or its proxies attack U.S. personnel anywhere, make no mistake: we will defend our people, we will defend our security — swiftly and decisively,” Blinken said. “We call on all member states to send a firm, united message to any state or non-state actor that is considering opening another front in this conflict against Israel or who may target Israel’s partners, including the United States: don’t. Don’t throw fuel on the fire.” 

Blinken said he was “grateful” to Qatar, Egypt and the Red Cross for helping to release four hostages in Gaza, but noted at least 200 more are “in the grip of Hamas.” He implored “every member here to use your voice to secure their immediate release.” 

“No nation in this council could or would tolerate the slaughter of its people,” Blinken said. 

The Security Council is regularly divided on Israel and has so far failed to come to a resolution concerning the Israel-Hamas war. At Tuesday’s meeting, which coincided with the 78th anniversary of the U.N.’s establishment, France’s ambassador called for all hostages to be released and reiterated solidarity with Israel. 

A United Kingdom diplomat said, “Hamas [cares] more for the opinions of their paymasters in Tehran than they do for the opinion of their fellow citizens.” 

Switzerland and China both expressed skepticism that Israel was not involved in last week’s bombing at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City despite numerous analyses by the United States and independent media organizations backing up Israel. 

Switzerland called for “an investigation so that the facts can be clarified,” despite the Pentagon’s claim that Israel was not responsible for the hospital explosion and that it was caused by an errant rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

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