Executive Director Veneman will meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, and visit Sderot and the Gaza Strip.

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson)

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman is due to visit Israel this week, in the framework of her tour of the Middle East. During the tour, Ms. Veneman will meet with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Majalli Whbee, and heads of Foreign Ministry divisions dealing with the international aid agencies and Israel’s UN activities. Executive Director Veneman will also meet with Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog, who will explain to her the humanitarian steps Israel is taking to ease the suffering of the children in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel resulting from Hamas aggression. She will also meet with the President of the Supreme Court, Dorit  Beinisch.

On Friday, 6 March 2009, Executive Director Veneman will visit Sderot in order to inspect the damage caused to children in southern Israel. She will meet with the mayor of Sderot, David Bouskila, and visit educational institutes in the city that are adversely affected by the firing of Kassam rockets by Hamas.

During the war, the children of Sderot sent a petition to Ms. Veneman, in which they requested that UNICEF would relate to the suffering of the children of southern Israel as well as to that of the children of Gaza, for whom the organization was collecting donations.
  
The Executive Director will also visit the Gaza Strip and meet with senior officials of the Palestinian Authority. During Operation Cast Lead, UNICEF issued supportive comments regarding the situation of the children of Gaza, while at the same time stating that the children of southern Israel are entitled to UNICEF protection, and to a peaceful life free of Kassam rocket attacks.

UNICEF is one of the most senior and most valued organizations in Israel; it operates offices which provide assistance to Palestinian children. UNICEF also provided assistance to Israeli children in the distant past, but with the strengthening of the Israeli economy, Israel became a donor, involved in the organization’s agenda to improve children’s rights and conditions around the world. In the framework of the Executive Director’s visit, MASHAV, the Center for International Development Cooperation of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will discuss the creation of a joint UNICEF-MFA aid program for providing Israeli assistance to suffering children everywhere, by means of Israeli experts and the instruction of trainees around the world.