US ambassador summoned by Israel
PM Netanyahu angered by UN vote over settlements
Israel will provide detailed, sensitive information to Donald Trump’s incoming administration about the US role as a covert partner in the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, a senior Israeli official told CNN Tuesday.
The official said it is becoming increasingly clear, based on Arab sources, that the administration was a covert partner in every detail of its formulation, together with the Palestinians.
Israeli officials have repeatedly and publicly criticize the Obama administration, saying it, led by Secretary of State John Kerry and his staff, pushed for the approval of the resolution. The administration has denied such involvement, though Kerry is expected to speak on Middle East peace on Wednesday morning.
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But the Israeli official charged that the administration tried to conceal its involvement by having Palestinian official Saeb Erekat demand that Egypt submit the resolution as the representative of the Arab League. This was intended to provide plausible deniability for the US and now can be seen in an administration spokesmen’s evasive denials, the official said.
Israel believes even after the Egyptians decided to withdraw the resolution, the administration continued to pressure other Security Council members to approve the resolution, which was introduced by four other countries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned the US ambassador and launched a scathing attack Sunday on the Obama administration after its refusal to veto the resolution.
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.”
Despite the resolution, Israel is advancing plans for hundreds of homes in East Jerusalem, a spokeswoman for the Jerusalem municipality said Tuesday.
“The city will continue, with all of the tools at its disposal, to develop our capital according to the city’s master plan and in accordance with planning and construction laws, for the benefit of all residents – Jews and Arabs alike,” Rachel Greenspan said. The plans include 216 units in Ramot and 174 units in Ramat Shlomo, two neighborhoods in E. Jerusalem.
The plans, scheduled for a Jerusalem Zoning Committee meeting on Wednesday, were on the agenda before the UN Security Council vote, according to Ir Amim, a left-leaning NGO that tracks construction in East Jerusalem.
The US 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.
Ambassadors from 10 countries that supported the resolution were summoned to the Israeli foreign ministry, but not to a meeting with Netanyahu. He ordered Monday his nation’s Foreign Ministry to temporarily limit all working ties with the embassies of the 12 UN Security Council members who voted in favor of Friday’s resolution.
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.”
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.
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.”
Husam Zomlot, senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Bash he believed Kerry wasn’t involved in pushing for the resolution and that the US “just cast its position based on its long-held policy.”
Zomlot said remarks by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power after the vote “represents the long-standing, unwavering policy of the US that considers settlements to be illegal and must cease.”
Israel was furious at the passage of Security Council resolution 2334, which says its settlements in the West Bank “had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security.”
Israel's moves since UN resolution
The presence and continued construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states: “The occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Previous Security Council resolutions, as well as the International Criminal Court of Justice, have stated that settlements are illegal under international law.
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The Security Council approved the resolution with 14 votes, with the US abstaining. Four of the countries do not have permanent ambassadors in Israel.
There was applause in the chamber following the vote, which represented perhaps the final bitter chapter in the years of antagonism between President Barack Obama’s administration and Netanyahu’s government.
More than anything else, the diplomatic move to suspend embassy ties is a statement meant to express Netanyahu’s anger at the countries that voted for the resolution. It is unlikely to have any practical effect on either Israel or the other countries, as it does not affect trade, security coordination, or other aspects of the relations. But as a statement, it is significant, and it is a continuation of Netanyahu’s diplomatic actions against countries that voted for the resolution.
Notably, it does not affect diplomatic relations with the United States, which has been the focus of much of Netanyahu’s anger.
Trump had also embroiled himself in the diplomatic action, in defiance of the convention that the United States has only one president at a time, by calling on the Obama administration to wield its Security Council veto.
Late Monday afternoon Trump set his sights on the United Nations, in the wake of the Israel resolution last week. Trump tweeted, “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
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Speaking at his start of week cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said he shared the “feelings, anger and frustration vis-à-vis the unbalanced resolution that is very hostile to the State of Israel, and which the Security Council passed in an unworthy manner.”
He added: “We will do whatever is necessary so that Israel will not be damaged by this shameful resolution and I also tell the ministers here, we must act prudently, responsibly and calmly, in both actions and words.”
The US and most other nations consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as an obstacle to a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
There are more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living in 137 settlements spread throughout the West Bank, according to Human Rights Watch.
The Obama administration, which mounted two failed efforts to broker Middle East peace, became increasingly angry about continued Israeli settlement expansion during its eight years in the White House. The Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to establish facts on the ground by building on land they view as part of their future state.
CNN’s Michael Schwartz, James Masters,Jeremy Diamond, Richard Greene, Stephen Collinson, David Wright, Kevin Liptak, and Slma Shelbayah contributed to this report.