Israel retaliates…reduces relations with 12 Security Council countries over UN vote


Netanyahu pointing both fingers in front of microphoneIsrael is reducing diplomatic working relationships with 12 countries on the United Nations Security Council, after the body voted to condemn Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory last week, according to reports.

CNN reported Monday that Israel suspended working ties with Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand. The report follows a similar story Sunday night in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

On Friday, the Security Council voted 14-0 on a resolution that condemns Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory as a “flagrant violation” of international law and demands a halt to “all Israeli settlement activities” as “essential for salvaging the two-state solution.”

The United States, which has veto power in the Security Council, abstained from the vote, breaking with longstanding U.S. policy to shield Israel from U.N. condemnation and allowing the resolution to pass.

The two other countries that make up the council, Venezuela and Malaysia, previously had no diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was infuriated by the vote, handed down the order, according to the reports.

The curtailing of working relations means Israeli ministers are to keep travel to those 12 countries to a minimum, while foreign ministers from those countries won’t be received by Israel, according to the reports. Business between Israel and those countries’ embassies will also be suspended, the reports say.

But the order does not apply to Israeli ambassadors in those 12 countries, meaning they will be able to continue to their work unabated.

The decision to reduce ties comes after the ambassadors from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Angola, Egypt, Japan, Spain, Ukraine and Uruguay were summoned to meetings with the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Sunday.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, was also summoned to a meeting Sunday with Netanyahu.

The order is likely to have little practical effect, as it does not touch trade, security cooperation and other aspects of relations, but it acts as a statement of Netanyahu’s anger at the situation. It also notably excludes the United States, which has been on the receiving end of most of Netanyahu’s public lashings.

But Netanyahu has expressed hope of being able to work with President-elect Donald Trump. Members of Congress, too, have pledged legislation to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel, including targeting U.S. funding to the U.N.

Israeli opposition blasts Netanyahu

The Israeli opposition on Monday blamed Netanyahu for harming the country’s standing and criticized his response to Resolution 2334.

“The prime minister was bragging about our foreign relations, and now what’s underway is a total collapse of Israeli foreign policy,” Yitzhak Herzog, co-chair of Israel’s largest opposition party, said at the opening of the Zionist Union faction Monday. He called on Yair Lapid, head of the opposition party Yesh Atid, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose Kulanu party is part of the governing coalition, to join him and “stop Netanyahu before it’s too late.”

“This is not policy, this is hysteria,” Yesh Atid’s Lapid said at a party meeting Monday. “We have enough haters who want to isolate us, there’s no reason to isolate ourselves.”

In the days after the vote Netanyahu lashed out at Obama, with whom he has had a testy relationship, saying his administration pushed the resolution behind the scenes and had broken a long-standing commitment not to allow the UN to impose conditions on Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. The U.S. decision to abstain in the vote, rather than veto the resolution, allowed it to pass.

It ain’t over yet

Israel fears that the United States and France want to advance another move on the Israeli-Palestinian issue before the Obama administration wraps up its term, Israeli media reported on Monday.

A senior official in Jerusalem said that during Sunday’s security cabinet meeting, ministers were presented with an assessment that during the international foreign ministers’ meeting scheduled for January 15 in Paris as part of the French peace initiative, a series of decisions on the peace process will be made. These will immediately be brought to the UN Security Council for a vote and will be adopted there before January 20.

The move presented to the ministers led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tell the Likud ministers during their subsequent meeting that Friday’s vote in the Security Council on the settlements was not the end of the story and that there are liable to be other steps taken by the international community, the official added.

Representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Council and others who attended the security cabinet meeting presented information indicating that the trend in talks between France, the U.S. and other countries in preparation for the foreign ministers’ meeting tended toward advancing such a move, he added.

According to Israeli information , U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wants to utilize the foreign ministers’ parley, which will be attended by representatives of dozens of countries, to deliver an address that presents his vision for the two-state solution. The senior official said that Israel fears this address will include American principles for resolving the core issues of borders, refugees, security arrangements and Jerusalem.

“The Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council spoke about information to the effect that what is planned is that the foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris will make a summary decision that will be adopted by the Quartet [on the Middle East] and by the UN Security Council before January 20,” the senior official said. “Israel believes this is an operative plan and the assumption is that the Americans are leading it all, together with the French.”

It was such a fear about the foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris that led Netanyahu to urge Likud ministers Sunday to stop criticizing US President Barack Obama and calling for annexing territories and building in settlements as a response to United Nations Security Council resolution 2334 that passed Friday.

In a meeting with Likud ministers, he warned them that Obama could follow up on his decision to abstain on the anti-Israel resolution by taking further steps against Israel before he leaves office on January 20.

The new Resolution imposing a “solution” of the conflict could become binding if done under Security Council enforcement authority.

The Hill/ YL