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UN Report Dropped, Netanyahu’s Election Threat, Jerusalem Marathon

Head of UN body resigns as her group’s ‘apartheid Israel’ report is withdrawn

Times of Israel, March 17th 2017


The head of a United Nations (UN) agency resigned after her group was ordered to rescind a controversial report that charged Israel with being an “apartheid regime” guilty of “racial domination” over the Palestinians. The accusation was never made before by a UN body [1].

The Context:

  • Rima Khalaf announced her resignation from the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted the document be removed from the agency’s website. “I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the UN,” said Khalaf.

  • The report, titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” was published by the ESCWA and is no longer available on its website. The group consists of 18 Arab countries and most do not recognize Israel.

  • US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley expressed her “outrage” at the report while Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon praised Guterres’s move as “an important step in stopping discrimination against Israel [2].”

  • Khalaf’s supporters hoped the report would fuel the international boycott movement against Israel. Richard Falk, one-time UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine and the report’s author, defended the text as an “academic study that tries its best to look at the evidence and analyze the applicable law in a professional manner.” Members of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) commended Khalaf for her decision to “resign in dignity than to surrender her principles to U.S.-Israeli bullying [3].”

Conversation Points:

  • Does the ESCWA’s member makeup throw the report’s objectivity into question?

  • Is the UN Secretary General’s decision a step towards reforming the UN’s position towards Israel?

  • Might the report have stood a greater chance of survival if the title was less inflammatory?

Israeli Ministers Speak Out Against Netanyahu’s Threat to Call Elections Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, March 19th 2017


Government ministers vociferously rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat of new elections. The last Israeli election was held just two years ago [4].

The Context:

  • The Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC) is slated to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) next month. Netanyahu requested that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon delay the closure of the outgoing IBA, threatening to disband the coalition and call for new elections if not. Kahlon, who is no longer a part of Netanyahu’s Likud party though still a member of Netanyahu’s coalition, accused Bibi of not really being “interested in public broadcasting, but rather control [5].”

  • Kahlon opposes the elimination of the IPBC on economic grounds since hundreds of millions of shekels have already been invested and hundreds of people hired [6]. Netanyahu’s sudden change of heart regarding the IPBC appears to stem from the announcement that Geula Even, wife of Netanyahu’s political rival Gideon Sa’ar, will assume the head anchor position at the newly formed broadcasting company.

  • Knesset members expressed their confusion as to why Netanyahu “might end up bringing down the government because of Geula Even [7]." Most government ministers, including those in Netanyahu’s coalition, criticized Netanyahu’s threat while Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the “last thing Israel needs right now is new elections [8].”

  • Culture Minister Miri Regev defended Netanyahu saying the dispute violated the coalition agreement, which insists support for legislation proposed by other coalition members. Coalition Chairman David Bitan said there was “a good chance” Likud would decide to hold new elections soon [9].

  • Israel’s Public Broadcasting law was put in place to create a separation between politicians and the media [10].

Conversation Points:

  • Did Netanyahu cross a line by trying to interfere with the IPBC transition?

  • Is Netanyahu trying to influence Israeli media?

  • Would Likud maintain power if elections were held today?

Jerusalem Marathon 2017: Bridges built in a divided city

Oren Liebermann, CNN, March 21st 2017


The Jerusalem Marathon includes a full marathon, half marathon, 10k, 5k and smaller family races [11]. Kenya's Shadrack Kipkosgei won the 26.2 mile race for the second year in a row, clocking in at 2:17:36. An estimated 30,000 people and 62 nationalities were represented.

The Context:

  • In 2014, Israel Haas launched Runners Without Borders, a group dedicated to improving the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. "One of the major problems of Jerusalem is the lack of knowledge between both sides and lack of knowledge will escalate into fear and bad opinions about each other," said Haas.

  • The seventh Jerusalem Marathon took place on March 17th, its route traversing famous cultural and historical sites including the Knesset, Machane Yehuda, Mount Scopus, the Old City and David’s Tower [12]. “Each year, participants run through the very streets where kings and prophets walked, against the backdrop of Jerusalem’s cultural and historical landscapes. It is a unique and breathtaking experience,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat [13].

Conversation Points:

  • Can small interactions, like a friendly running race, build bridges between divided nations?


  1. Arab Diplomat Resigns UN Post Amid Pressure to Pull Report Accusing Israel of 'Apartheid', Reuters, Haaretz and The Associated Press March 17th 2017

  2. 'Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN', Chana Roberts, Israel National News, March 18th 2017

  3. U.N. Diplomat Behind Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid Quits, Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta, New York Times, March 17th 2017

  4. TEL AVIV DIARY: WHY IS BIBI CONSIDERING A SNAP ELECTION?, Marc Schulman, Newsweek, March 21st 2017

  5. Israeli Interior Minister Threatens Netanyahu With Early Elections Over Broadcasting Authority Feud,, March 20th 2017

  6. TEL AVIV DIARY: WHY IS BIBI CONSIDERING A SNAP ELECTION?, Marc Schulman, Newsweek, March 21st 2017

  7. Netanyahu sets new demands to resolve spat with Kahlon over IPBC, Yedioth Ahronoth, March 21st 2017

  8. 'Israel doesn't need new elections', Israel National News.

  9. Coalition chairman says ‘good chance’ of new elections, Times of Israel, March 18th 2017

  10. Netanyahu sets new demands to resolve spat with Kahlon over IPBC, Yedioth Ahronoth, March 21st 2017

  11. 30,000 runners set for Jerusalem Marathon,Viva Sarah Press, Israel21c, March 16th 2017

  12. Ibid.

  13. Ibid.

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