Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) met with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the latter's UN office yesterday (Friday).
During their meeting, Edelstein told Ban about Israel's concern over the recent Iran nuclear agreement. "As a member of the Jewish people that experienced the Holocaust, I believe someone when he says he wants to destroy me," said Edelstein. "No one has to love Israel. It is fine and necessary to express criticism, but you cannot threaten to destroy us."
The Secretary-General countered by stressing that he believes the deal is beneficial, even if it is not ideal: "There are no perfect agreements. I believe that the long negotiations brought about a good deal. In any case, I advise you to rely on the statement by President Reagan, to 'believe but verify' that the conditions are held to."
Later, Edelstein expressed his dissatisfaction that a senior Iranian official recently emphasized that Iran wishes to destroy Israel. The remark came in response to UK Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, who had claimed that Iran has a "more nuanced approach" towards Israel today.
The Secretary-General, in turn, said he is very worried that there are no talks currently going on with the Palestinians. "You must sit down and talk. I am very concerned about the crime, about the violence, and about the provocations in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank. The Middle East needs stability and both sides have an interest in improving the situation. This will only come about through dialog."
Edelstein responded by saying that he believes preliminary talks should be between people and between parliaments – without any connection to a peace deal or borders. "Both sides have a shared interest and are bound by their need to provide a good life for future generations," he said. "We must work together on issues including water resources, the environment, and farming. Only thus can we build a base for peace with them."
The Knesset Speaker thanked the Secretary-General for the United Nation's intention to recognize Yom Kippur as an official holiday of the State of Israel. In doing so, the UN will not carry out activities on that day. "This is a very holy day for Jews," said Edelstein. "Aside from the justified and important gesture, I believe there is a message here that the organization which you head expresses its recognition for the rights of the Jewish people."