Portugal backs UN in bitter feud with Israel, which vowed to ‘teach them a lesson’

Top United Nations official is embroiled in an escalating dispute with Israel over his position on the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel has denied a visa to U.N. Under Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, following Guterres’ comments on the conflict with Hamas | Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images

Portugal’s Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho on Wednesday said his government supported António Guterres’ position on the Israel-Hamas war, amid an escalating dispute between the United Nations secretary-general and Israeli authorities.

“We fully understand and follow the position of António Guterres, who was unequivocal when he condemned Hamas terrorism,” Gomes Cravinho told Portuguese newswire Lusa. “There is no way to say that António Guterres is in any way excusing terrorism.”

The Portuguese foreign minister also dismissed Israel’s calls for Guterres — who is Portuguese — to resign.

Guterres also received Germany’s support, with a spokesperson for the government in Berlin saying on Wednesday it had confidence in the U.N. chief, according to Reuters.

On Tuesday, Guterres said during a Security Council meeting that the violent Hamas attack against Israel on October 7 “did not happen in a vacuum,” triggering furious reactions from Israel.

In response, Israel’s U.N. ambassador Gilad Erdan told Israeli radio on Wednesday morning that the country has denied a visa to U.N. Under Secretary-General Martin Griffiths, following Guterres’ comments.

“Due to his remarks we will refuse to issue visas to U.N. representatives … The time has come to teach them a lesson,” Erdan told Army Radio, reported Times of Israel.

Guterres followed up in the early hours of Wednesday morning, saying that the “horrendous attacks” by Hamas “cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

Guterres’ initial “vacuum” remarks were slammed by Erdan, who said “the Secretary-General is completely disconnected from the reality in our region” and called for his resignation. Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also announced he would no longer meet with Guterres.

Some top Western officials have been appealing to Israel to mitigate its response against civilians in Gaza, a coastal strip of land where more than two million Palestinians live and where Hamas militants are in control.

Following Hamas’ deadly attack in early October, which killed more than 1,400 people, Israel has carried out relentless retaliatory airstrikes and put the Gaza Strip under a “complete siege,” cutting off fuel, electricity and water, and killing more than 6,500 people.

Source: Politico