See also: UN DPI Multimedia (Ref: 98-1526/98; 99-0879/99)
Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

30 March 1998


The Secretary-General and his party travelled to Israel by road in the morning of Tuesday, 24 March, crossing at the Erez checkpoint, where they were greeted by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism, Moshe Katzav.

At midday, he met with Israeli President Ezer Weizman, followed by a luncheon hosted by the President that the Secretary-General described as extremely cordial. They spoke to the press briefly before lunch.

In the afternoon, he met with Gerhard Shroeder, President of the German Bundesrat, Minister President of Lower Saxony, Germany, who was also in Israel on an official visit.

He then met for more than an hour with Israeli Defence Minister, Itzhak Mordechai, including a tête-à-tête, during which they discussed southern Lebanon and the Middle East peace process.

In the evening, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, initially one on one, during which the Prime Minister informed the Secretary-General that he would seek Israeli Cabinet approval for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon. The two then met with the press.

The Secretary-General then attended a small dinner hosted by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Later that evening, he met with the families of Israeli soldiers missing in action, including that of Ron Arad.

The Secretary-General began the second day of his official visit to Israel with a breakfast meeting with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert.

He then visited Yad Vashem, the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, where he laid a wreath in Remembrance Hall. Accompanied by his wife, Nane, he viewed the tree planted in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, and walked through the Memorial to Children killed in the Holocaust. On exiting, he speculated what would have happened during the Second World War if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had already existed. "Would it have given courage to the victims to resist?", he asked. "Would there have been more Raoul Wallenbergs?"

He then proceeded to the Knesset where he met with the Speaker, Dan Tichon, and then with Members of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee including the Chairman, Uzi Landau.

At a luncheon hosted by the Speaker and his wife, the Secretary-General drew laughter when he referred to the David Ben-Gurion phrase "Oom-Schmoom" to describe a United Nations irrelevant or hostile to Israel. He then added that without "Oom" (United Nations), there would be "Cloom" (nothing). He asked Israelis to open their minds to a new era in relations between Israel and the United Nations. (See Press Release SG/SM/6505.)

After lunch the Secretary-General met with the Chairman of the Labour Party, Ehud Barak, and other members of the opposition. They discussed in-depth the status of the peace process and the proposed Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon.

In the late afternoon, the Secretary-General made a major policy address at the Israeli Council on Foreign Relations. He said his visit was taking place at a time of considerable uneasiness in the region. He delivered a three-point message: firstly, he warned the parties of the potentially grave consequences should the Oslo peace process fail; secondly, he called for a new era in relations between Israel and the United Nations; and thirdly, he asked Israel and its partners to make the difficult choices required for peace. (For the full text of the speech, see Press Release SG/SM/6504.)

He then gave a press conference before travelling to the Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) where he met with Palestinian leader, Faisal Husseini.

On Thursday, 26 March, the Secretary-General breakfasted with Gad Yaacobi, former Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations. Before departing to Geneva, the Secretary-General also met with children from Chernobyl, who had been relocated to Israel with the assistance of United Nations agencies.

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For information media - not an official record