After six years of quiet diplomacy as UNNickolay Mladenov, the envoy for the Middle East, leaves his post to the praise of an unlikely choir
JERUSALEM â ???? By its very nature, preventive diplomacy does not often generate splashy headlines for practitioners
In nearly six years as the United Nations’ chief envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Nickolay E Mladenov worked quietly behind the scenes to prevent the Gaza Strip from boiling over, preserve the possibility of a two-state solution and support Israeli-Arab normalization as the most preferred alternative to Israeli annexation of land in the West Bank
But he has at least one feat that is considered conspicuous: He earned the respect of almost everyone he had dealt with, many of whom view each other as enemies
“A very honest broker” Rami Hamdallah, a former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, called him
“We are proud to have known him,” said Khalil al-Hayya, the Hamas deputy leader in Gaza
Mr Mladenov, 48, whose last day at work was Thursday, is returning to his native Bulgaria after abruptly pulling out of another high profile assignment in Libya to contend with what he called a serious health problem
In a two-hour Exit interview, he recalled how irrelevant he felt when he arrived in Jerusalem as U in 2015 Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process â ???? A contribution made in 1999 when there was still a peace process
His predecessors by and large acted as gimmicks, experts said and fired statements that criticized Israel but rarely dared to step off the sidelines. Israelis dismissed the U.N a???? â ???? Um ???? in Hebrew ???? with a cake? Um, shmumâ ????
“This mission was very isolated from any high-level interaction” Mr. Mladenov Said Nobody Took It Serious Basically, one side expects you to just repeat what they say, the other side expects you to walk away, and that’s it ????
In 2016 he quarreled with the Middle East Quartet of Mediators â ???? the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations to issue a groundbreaking report on concrete steps that, with little hope of breakthrough, could at least preserve the possibility of a two-state solution
Acting without negotiation contradicted the diplomatic doctrine of the time that the resumption of peace talks was of the utmost importance and the way to solve everything
“I don’t think it will work that way,” Mr Mladenov said, “You can have the best deal in the world” But as long as the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are at odds, he said, “Good luck with the implementation”â ????
A recommendation from the Quartet urging Israel to cease its settlement enterprise in the West Bank was hardly new. But another â ???? Call on the Palestinians to stop inciting violence and condemn “all acts of terrorism” ???? required “a shift in the position of everyone”? he said
It was less of a jump for Mr. Mladenov As Bulgaria’s foreign minister, he worked with Israeli officials following a 2012 suicide attack in Burgas that killed a bus driver and five Israeli tourists This attack was attributed to Hezbollah
Like the UN Envoy, he caught Flak about his dullness “I don’t talk about this conflict in the usual way” he said you can’t go to a restaurant in Tel Aviv and shoot people and later tell me that this is legitimate opposition. No, it is it notâ ????
Mr Mladenov was just as ruthless when Israeli settlers burned a Palestinian family alive. And after Israeli soldiers killed a 15-year-old Gaza boy during border demonstrations in 2018, he tweeted: “Stop shooting children”
â ???? If you are a UN are not clear where you stand on these things, can you not be believable ???? he said “And I suppose I am critical of both the Israelis and the Palestinians where I felt they did things wrong and welcomed them when they did things right”? I think this is a novelty in this frozen conflictâ ????
In Gaza, an area constantly on the brink of another war, he made it his business to avoid one
In 2018, the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, tried to strangle its arch-rival Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, by withholding money for the Gaza Strip power plant and lowering the Gaza Strip’s payroll on the verge of collapse Then came waves of violence between Gaza and Israel Border killings, arson balloons and rockets
But while Egypt mediates, Mr. Mladenov made a final run for the Palestinian Authority, prompting the Qataris to provide vital funding to keep the lights on and money flowing into Gaza while Israel and Hamas stay more or less on the same side
Nimrod Novik, a veteran Israeli peace negotiator, said that Mr. Mladenov saw how he could articulate his arguments regarding the interests of either party “Mr. Novik Said” Or you can say, “Gaza” is going to explode in your face, but if we do one, two, three we can gain some months of rest, so help me help youâ ???? â ????
Mr Mladenov said he feared another Gaza war would return the world to “their usual topics of conversation about this place” has condemned any hope of peace talks and left a “Somalia on Israel’s doorstep” Condemned Israel from across the Arab world and stopped donor countries from paying to rebuild Gaza as they did after the 2014 war
It would have been a lot easier to sit on the sidelines and preach he said, but preaching never gets you anywhere?
“I come from the Balkans” he said “We have changed the borders”We fought over holy sites, languages and churches. We have exchanged populations for 100 years, if not more. And when you carry this baggage you can see things a little differently. This is not a conflict where you come in and just line a line.” It is emotionalâ ????
â ???? I know from personal experience that when the foreigners come without a quote and tell you what to do, you just turn them off. They are like “Thank you very much” he added, “You can’t preach to these guys. Remember, you’ve been around for half a century”
Last spring, insiders said Mr. Mladenov was among the first officials to conclude that no deterrent would prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from keeping his promises to annex West Bank territory, but that it might be possible to induce the annexation for a bigger price to drop: normalize with Arab states that had long shunned Israel
The annexation plan “???? gained momentum” ???? he said And if it happened it would be terrible for Israel ???? Forget about another ceasefire in Gaza, he said Imagine the global condemnation
â ???? My thought was: if this is the wrong way to go, but you can see why it appeals to certain sections of the population, which appeals to a larger section that is not destructive but actually constructive? â ????
He didn’t ask for credit for the deals Israel had made, but he was working on building a constituency for the idea of using normalization as a carrot to reward Israel for dropping annexation
“There were some people who were very surprised by this,” said Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law who led the White House’s Middle East team. He saw what we were doing we trusted him and he would give us constructive feedback giveâ ????
The Palestinians viewed these deals as a disastrous treason, but Mr. Mladenov argued that normalization would prove beneficial for them too
“OK, now it’s very emotional, the Palestinians are super angry” he said But put those emotions aside and think: who is most effective when trying to push Israel to do certain things? Egypt and Jordan When four, six or ten Arab countries have embassies in Tel Aviv, you want them to be on your side, right? ????
“You now have a contract,” he added, “This is a big deal”Neither Israel nor the Arab countries will want to ruin it. That gives certain countries leverage in Israel. If you are the Palestinian, you really want to explain to your Arab brothers and friends what your positions are, and they are on your side of the conversation again.” Bring the table –
Mr Mladenov wasn’t a fan of the Trump peace plan, but he said the ongoing changes opened up exciting opportunities for his successor as UN Envoy, the Norwegian diplomat Tor Wennesland
“It’s a different world” Mr. Said Mladenov And you know, despite all his flaws, it could actually be a better oneâ ????
World News – FI – He calmed Gaza, supported Israel’s Arab relations and maintained hopes for peace