The head of the U.N. West Asia Commission has resigned under pressure, after refusing to withdraw a controversial report that said Israel has established an "apartheid regime" that discriminates against Palestinians.
Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who heads the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), told reporters Friday in Beirut that she could not accept a demand by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for her to withdraw the report.
"I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the U.N.," she said.
The report titled "Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid" was published earlier this week, and drew immediate criticism from U.N., U.S. and Israeli officials.
ESCWA, one of five U.N. regional commissions worldwide, was established in 1973 to promote economic development and cooperation in the Arab world. It has 18 member states, Arab countries ranging from Oman to Morocco, and includes Palestine as a full member.
Khalaf, who is also a U.N. undersecretary-general, said the document "concludes scientifically and according to international law that Israel has established an apartheid regime."
She called the report "the first of its kind" from a U.N. agency and said it brings to light "the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people, which amount to war crimes against humanity."
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was published without any prior consultations with the U.N. secretariat and that it does not reflect the views of the secretary-general. The 75-page report was deleted from the ESCWA website by U.N. officials, but copies are still circulating online.
"A secretary-general cannot accept that an undersecretary-general or any other senior U.N. official that reports to him would authorize the publication under the U.N. name, under the U.N. logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself," Dujarric said.
He also disputed Khalaf's account of the resignation: "This is not about pressure. This is about the secretary-general having the authority to manage the organization in a way that is done effectively and that can deliver on its goals."
Both Israel's U.N. envoy, Danny Danon, and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, welcomed Khalaf's departure.
"Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the U.N. It is time to put an end to the practice in which U.N. officials use their position to advance their anti-Israel agenda," Danon said.
"When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N.," Haley said, "it is appropriate that the person resign."