United Nations Resolution Vote Leads To More Tension Between U.S. And Israel
While most Americans spent the end of last week and the weekend focused on the Christmas holiday, the Middle East was making news at the United Nations and around the world. It started on Friday when the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution censuring Israel for its continued policy of expanding settlements in the West Bank and around Jerusalem as detrimental to the Middle East “peace process,” such as it is. What was notable about the vote is that the United States chose to abstain from the vote rather than exercising its Security Council veto, an action which has led to condemnation from President-Elect Trump, Republicans on Capitol Hill, and from the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The action itself has led Israel to openly defy the U.N. and the Obama Administration by openly ramping up settlement building activity over the weekend and now the Netanyahu government is claiming that they have proof that the United States was behind the resolution all along:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the US ambassador and launched a scathing attack Sunday on the Obama administration after its refusal to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.
The United States abstained on the resolution, allowing it to pass, rather than vetoing it — as it usually does with resolutions it sees as overly critical of Israel, leading to US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro being summoned, an Israeli official told CNN Sunday.
“We can confirm Ambassador Shapiro will meet with PM Netanyahu this evening. We will have no other details to offer,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN.
Ambassadors from 10 countries that supported the resolution were summoned to the Israeli foreign ministry, but not to a meeting with Netanyahu.
Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said Monday that Netanyahu called in Shapiro for a face-to-face meeting because the US is “the only country where we have any expectation to actually stand with us at the United Nations.”
“It’s an old story that the United Nations gangs up against Israel. What is new is that the United States did not stand up and oppose that gang up. And what is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind that gang up,” Dermer told CNN’s “New Day,” echoing the case Netanyahu laid out a day earlier.
Netanyahu said Sunday of the UN resolution that “we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed.”
Netanyahu also took aim at the US Secretary of State, adding in English: “As I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”
His office released a copy of the remarks, with translation, on his website.
“Over decades American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements, but we agreed the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue,” Netanyahu said.
Israel is also concerned about another resolution at the United Nations Security Council that would impose terms for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, according to Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren. “We cannot dismiss any possibility,” Oren told CNN.
Such a resolution could be presented in the coming days or following a January 15 international peace conference organized by France. Israel has said it will not attend the conference which is scheduled to held in Paris. A resolution on parameters for negotiations could lay out positions on Jerusalem, borders, Palestinian refugees, and a time table for negotiations.
Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes told CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday, “We have iron-clad information, frankly, that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it, from sources internationally and sources in the Arab world.”
US officials did not immediately respond to CNN questions about the comments, but on Friday, Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes rejected similar accusations.
“President Obama’s track record on Israel’s security is clear. Anybody can review it. But, in fact, I’d take umbrage at language that suggests that this was our preferred course of action and that we initiated it,” Rhodes said.
“With respect to this resolution, we did not draft this resolution; we did not introduce this resolution. The Egyptians, in partnership with the Palestinians, are the ones who began circulating an earlier draft of the resolution. The Egyptians are the ones who moved it forward (Thursday). And we took the position that we did when it was put to a vote.”
The fact that there is tension between the Obama and Netanyahu Administrations is no surprise, of course. Ever since Netanyahu returned to office just months after President Obama himself was inaugurated, there have been rather obvious tensions between the two that centered mainly around how to handle the Iranian nuclear program. Netanyahu has rather obviously and openly been lobbying for a tougher stand on the issue if not outright war against Iran for years now and was almost alone on the world stage in opposing last year’s deal between Iran and the major world powers regarding curtailing the Iranian nuclear research program. Additionally, more so than any other Israeli Prime Minister before him Netanyahu has been openly courting President Obama’s Republican opponents from the beginning of his tenure, and Republicans have virtually adopted the Netanyahu as one of their own while claiming that President Obama has been the most “anti-Israel” President in U.S. history. The result has been a relationship between the Israeli Prime Minister and the American President that has been publicly cordial out of necessity, but one in which it is rather obvious that the two men quite clearly don’t like each other. Thus, it’s not surprising that Netanyahu would lash out at the President after the United Nations vote and imply that the U.S. was behind the U.N. resolution even though there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to support the claim.
The reality, of course, is that the Obama Administration has been as supportive of Israel as any American Presidential Administration before it, and in some ways perhaps more supportive, especially during times of crisis such as Israel’s war against Hamas several years ago in response to repeated rocket attacks launched against civilian targets from the West Bank. This has been especially true at the United Nations where the U.S. has prevented several “anti-Israel” resolutions from even getting to a vote over the past eight years without exercising its veto power at the Security Council table. This vote was an exception, but that is largely because the Obama Administration’s position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank is no different from what American policy has been since the 1967 war. Indeed, many past Administrations, including most notably the Reagan Administration, have abstained from similar resolutions in the past as a way of reinforcing what has been long-standing U.S. policy on the issue of settlements. Additionally, the Reagan Administration was harshly critical of Israel during it’s invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon and voted several times with the majority to condemn it during the eight years it was in office. In fact, Reagan was notable for being the one American President in recent years who did not visit Israel while President. In other words, the idea that the Obama Administration was the most anti-Israeli American Presidency in history is quite simply nonsense.
As for the Netanyahu’s claim that the U.S. was behind the resolution that the Security Council voted in favor of on Friday, there is presently no evidence to support this claim. The Netanyahu Administration is claiming that it has such evidence and that it will provide it to the incoming Trump Administration in due course, but this just tends to make their claim implausible. If there is such evidence, then why not provide it to the press now rather than waiting? In the end, I would suspect it would be because no such plausible evidence exists, or that if it does it consists largely of hearsay evidence from unnamed sources whose veracity can never be tested. The fact that they are saying they’ll share the ‘evidence’ with Trump but not anyone else just seems like yet another example of how Netanyahu has engaged in largely unprecedented partisan participation in American politics in a manner unlike any of his predecessors. He’s likely to be rewarded for that in the future by a Trump Administration that seems intent on being anything but a neutral party in any peace process.