Israel to chair legal panel in UN milestone

Israel to chair legal panel in UN milestone
Israeli ambassador Danny Danon has been elected to chair the UN General Assembly's legal affairs committee, triggering outrage among those who consider Israel a violator of international law.
2 min read
14 June, 2016
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon picked up 109 votes from the 193 UN member-states [Getty]
Israel has been elected to chair the legal affairs committee at the UN General Assembly, triggering strong protests from Palestinians and Arab nations.

Israeli ambassador Danny Danon picked up 109 votes from the 193 member states on Monday to lead one of the Assembly's six major committees - the first time that Israel has done so in the UN's history.

His candidacy was put to a vote by secret ballot at the request of Arab countries. All other committee chairs were chosen by consensus.

"This is a historic achievement for Israel," Danon said. "I am very proud to be the first Israeli to serve as the chairman of a committee."

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour criticised the regional group for putting forward Danon's candidacy, saying he was divisive and unworthy of the task.

"They should have advanced a very responsible qualified candidate and not a big violator of international law," Mansour told reporters.

Yemen's Ambassador Khaled Alyemany, who heads the Arab Group at the United Nations, said he had sent a message to all member states to protest against the election of the Israeli ambassador.

"We cannot accept that a country like Israel, violator of international law and humanitarian law and the last colonial force existing in the world, has the right to rule on all legal affairs," Alyemany said.

"This is negative. This is destructive. This is showing lack of sensitivity to our concerns," he added.

Israel's candidacy was backed by the US, its long-time ally, and European countries.

Israel and the Arab peace initiative

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Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced his country would never accept the Arab peace initiative.

He made the comments on Monday night to members of his Likud party, Israeli media reported, after facing pressure from right-wing cabinet members.

Late last month, Netanyahu spoke of the Arab League-endorsed proposal that dates from 2002, saying it "includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians".

The Arab proposal essentially calls for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and resolve the issue of refugees with the Palestinians, leading to the creation of a Palestinian state, in exchange for normalised relations with Arab countries.

But members of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party who hold key positions in Netanyahu's cabinet oppose a Palestinian state.

Agencies contributed to this report.