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Monday, June 23, 2014

Persona non grata?

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has announced that he would like to expel UN envoy Robert Serry after Serry was caught trying to facilitate the transfer of $20 million to Hamas.
The discussion comes amid allegations in the Foreign Ministry that Serry worked inside the UN to transfer $20 million from Qatar to Hamas to pay salaries.

According to diplomatic sources, Serry asked Israel and the Palestinian Authority to allow the transfer of the funds, but was met with refusals from both sides. He did not give up, however, and continued to push the idea through the UN institutions.

According to the sources, he wanted the money to be transferred to UN agencies, which would then transfer it to Hamas inside Gaza.

The sources said that Serry was trying to find an alternative avenue to getting funds to Hamas, since the Egyptians have closed the smuggling tunnels through which the money used to pass.

The sources said that for Liberman this was the final straw in a long history of what he viewed as very problematic behavior by the UN envoy.


Serry issued a statement rejecting the allegations that he tried to transfer funds to Hamas.

He said that he did visit Qatar a few weeks ago, but that the issue of a UN role on the payment of salaries did not come up.

“There have since been reports that Qatar has been considering assisting in this issue,” he said. “And indeed I was approached last Thursday informally by Prime Minister [Rami] Hamdallah of the Palestinian Authority. In considering any UN role on the issue of payments of salaries in Gaza that has potentially destabilizing effects on security in Gaza, I made it clear that we would only be able to be of assistance if acceptable to all stakeholders, including Israel. This information was immediately shared with Israeli authorities at the working level and their initial reaction was indeed negative.”

Serry, a Dutch diplomat, asserted that in the past seven years as the UN’s Mideast envoy he has “carried out my work with impartiality in an effort to assist both Israelis and Palestinians. It is now disheartening to hear that in considering a request from one of the parties in the aforementioned effort, the integrity of my role is being questioned.”

Any decision to declare Serry persona non grata would have to be approved by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who spoke over the weekend with Ban, updated him on the developments in the West Bank and said that Israel has unequivocal evidence that Hamas was behind the kidnappings.
Serry cannot be expelled soon enough. 

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