UN Secretary-General Invokes a Rare Power as Part of His Growing Calls for a Cease-fire at Gaza

Antonio Guterres is hitting ‘a new moral low,’ says Israel’s ambassador to the world’s governing body.

AP/Mary Altaffer, file
The United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, June 8, 2022. AP/Mary Altaffer, file

Jerusalem is seething over the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, who is activating, for the first time during his tenure, a special power to convene the organization’s most powerful body to call for Israel to end its offensive against Gaza.

In a letter today, Mr. Guterres asked the Security Council’s president to convene a meeting on the humanitarian crisis at Gaza, citing the collapsing health care system and the rising deaths and injuries of civilians in the region. Invoking article 99 of the UN charter to call for such a meeting suggests a heightened focus on attaining a cease-fire at Gaza, which Israel has staunchly opposed and Hamas terrorists have welcomed. 

Article 99 states that “the Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.” Yet Mr. Guterres is already free to ask the president of the Security Council — a seat currently held by Ecuador — to convene a session as he wishes. He did not invoke this rare power during other recent international conflicts such as the war in Ukraine. 

“Today, the Secretary-General has reached a new moral low,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said in a statement. He adds that “the Secretary-General decided to activate this rare clause only when it allows him to put pressure on Israel, which is fighting the Nazi Hamas terrorists. This is more proof of the Secretary-General’s moral distortion and his bias against Israel.”

The UN’s announcement comes as evidence emerges at Israel that the hostages released so far were sexually abused while under captivity. Senior officials from the Biden administration have said that Hamas has reneged on its agreement to release the remaining women hostages because it appears they have been sexually abusing them. President Biden called the reports of women sexually assaulted by Hamas “appalling.”

Mr. Guterres, meanwhile, is doubling down on his demands for an extended truce at Gaza. These “distorted positions,” says Mr. Erdan, “only prolong the fighting in Gaza, because they give hope to the Hamas terrorists that the war will be stopped and they will be able to survive.” 

Mr. Erdan is calling for the Secretary-General’s immediate resignation, asserting that “the UN needs a Secretary-General who supports the war on terror, not a Secretary-General who acts according to the script written by Hamas.”


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