update deskIsrael at War

Erdan meets UN Gaza reconstruction coordinator

Sigrid Kaag must have Israel’s “full support,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week.

Then-Dutch Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag speaks ahead of the Eurogroup finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Jan. 17, 2022. Photo by Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.
Then-Dutch Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag speaks ahead of the Eurogroup finance ministers meeting in Brussels, Jan. 17, 2022. Photo by Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock.

Amid pressure from the United States, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan last week sat down with the U.N.’s newly appointed humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for the Gaza Strip, former Dutch deputy premier Sigrid Kaag.

The ambassador expressed “severe criticism” of U.N. agencies’ conduct in Gaza and incessant public criticism of Israel’s war against Hamas, according to a statement from Erdan’s office.

Erdan said he told Kaag the Jewish state would extend all possible assistance to her office, but that Jerusalem expects her to operate in an unbiased manner and reflect facts on the ground.

“The world must know the truth about the crimes that Hamas committed, and we will not agree to continue in a situation where U.N. officials operate in the Gaza Strip and present a false picture of the situation to the world,” said Erdan.

A mission spokesman told JNS the meeting was “not adversarial,” but wouldn’t term it cordial, either. A U.N. spokesman said the meeting was “friendly” and expressed hopes that “the cooperation will be good.”

Speaking with reporters at a press briefing in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had demanded that Israel support Kaag’s mission of rebuilding the Gaza Strip following the war.

“Sigrid Kaag is someone I worked very closely with a few years ago when she led the U.N. mission that destroyed the Assad regime’s chemical weapons in Syria. So, I can say from experience she has what it takes to get this job done,” Blinken stated.

“She has America’s full support. She must have Israel’s as well,” he added.

Kaag, who previously served as Dutch minister for foreign affairs and development cooperation, admitted to parliament in 2020 that her ministry had paid part of the salaries of two terrorists involved in the murder of an Israeli teenager. 

The terrorists implicated in the attack were employed by the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which has close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group. Ignoring multiple warnings from Israeli watchdog groups, Kaag, who is married to Anis al-Qaq, a former Palestinian Authority deputy minister and PLO ambassador, continued to support the UAWC, contributing some 11.7 million euros ($12.9 million) between 2017 and 2020.

Before joining the Dutch government in 2017, Kaag served in multiple senior U.N. roles, including at the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Her accomplishments as head of the U.N. team charged with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal were widely criticized against the background of Damascus’s continued use of sarin and other deadly chemical agents against its civilian population.

Furthermore, in a 1996 interview, Kaag accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, elected premier for the first time earlier that year, of using “racist, demagogic overtones about the Palestinian peace partner.” She also said in the interview that her Palestinian father-in-law had been stabbed by a Jew dressed as an Arab—a claim many have contested as police records show no record of the alleged hate crime.

During a visit to Israel this week, Blinken pushed Israeli officials to move to a less intensive, more targeted stage of the war against the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip. He suggested that Palestinians displaced to the south of the Strip be allowed back to the northern part.

Blinken said Washington had reached an agreement with Jerusalem for a U.N. mission led by Kaag to carry out an assessment in northern Gaza to determine what needs to be done before Palestinians can return.

“The United Nations is playing an indispensable role in addressing the immense humanitarian needs in Gaza. There is simply no alternative,” Blinken argued, angering some Israeli coalition lawmakers.

“Mr. Secretary, Hamas has taken over UNRWA in Gaza,” Knesset member Sharren Haskel was quoted as saying in the Israel Hayom daily on Wednesday. “Therefore, the meaning of your words is that there is no alternative to Hamas. We are not ready to accept that in any way.”

She went on to say that, “It cannot be that the U.N. educates entire generations to radical Islam. What was, can no longer be, or [the brutal terror attacks of] Oct. 7 will happen again, sooner or later.”

Kaag heads to Washington later this week for unspecified meetings before traveling to Amman, where she will base herself for an undetermined period.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry would not comment on Wednesday on whether Kaag has applied for a visa to enter Gaza. Last week, the ministry told JNS that she had not yet sent in visa paperwork.

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