United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres arrived in Israel from Kuwait on Saturday evening, 27 August.
On Sunday, his first stop was to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, paying tribute to the victims of what he called the “most hideous crime against humanity in the history of mankind.” Addressing the press after lighting the eternal flame of remembrance, he stressed his commitment to fight anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and all other forms of bigotry, voicing his shock at having heard neo-Nazis, in a developed country, chanting “blood and soil” recently.
The Secretary-General participated in a tree planting ceremony for Heads of States at the Grove of Nations and paid his respects at the tomb of former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
He held meetings with President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, as well as with the Leader of the Opposition, Israel Herzog, and Avi Gabbay, who heads the Labour Party.
Speaking to the press before his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Secretary-General underlined his commitment to the right of existence of the State of Israel and to be a messenger for peace. He also emphasized his desire for two States to live together in mutual recognition, peace and security.
The Secretary-General also received a presentation at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem from Israeli companies of innovative technologies that will help promote the Sustainable Development Goals in the areas of water, recycling, energy, agriculture and medicine. In brief remarks at the event, which also included Prime Minister Netanyahu, he saluted the potential of these technologies for the developing world.
On Tuesday morning, 29 August, the Secretary-General was briefed on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Secretary-General then went by car to Ramallah, returning to Jerusalem on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General visited Kibbutz Nihal Oz in southern Israel, close to the Gaza Strip.
The Secretary-General met with representatives of the kibbutz and heard from them of their fears of rocket attacks from Hamas, as well as tunnel infiltration. In remarks to the press afterwards the Secretary-General said he was very impressed by the message given by these families: “A message of peace. They want peace. They want to see Palestinians and Israelis living both in peace and both well. And taking into account all that has happened in this community, I think this message of peace has an enormous value.”
Just before visiting the kibbutz, the Secretary-General was given a tour by the Israeli army of one of the infiltration tunnels built by Hamas.
The Secretary-General then visited Gaza, from whence he returned to Tel Aviv later that day.
Prior to leaving to New York on Wednesday evening, the Secretary-General delivered a speech at the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. In his remarks, he said that, today, anti-Semitism, along with racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance, are being triggered by populism and by political figures who exploit fear to win votes. The Secretary-General noted that he sees that anti-Semitism also includes calls for the destruction of Israel, which he said bears all the responsibilities and enjoys all the rights of every other United Nations Member State. (See Press Release SG/SM/18658.)