Israel’s Netanyahu accuses US of 'shameful ambush' over UN settlements vote

'Friends do not take friends to the UN Security Council,' Israeli leader says, in rebuke to US President Barack Obama over US abstention on UN vote condemning settlement building on Palestinian land 

Sunday 25 December 2016 11:33
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at US President Barack Obama on Saturday, Dec. 24, accusing him of a "shameful ambush" at the United Nations over West Bank settlements
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at US President Barack Obama on Saturday, Dec. 24, accusing him of a "shameful ambush" at the United Nations over West Bank settlements

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has targeted US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry for particular criticism over a controversial UN resolution calling Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem a “flagrant violation of international law.”

The 15-member Security Council voted 14 - 0 on the measure on Friday, with US ambassador Samantha Power raising her hand as the lone abstention – a symbolic break with US policy in the past, which has been to use its veto power to shield Israel from international reproval on the issue.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Netanyahu said Mr Obama had carried out a “shameful ambush” of its ally over the vote, adding that he is looking forward to working with “friend”, US President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office in January.

"I told John Kerry - friends do not take friends to the UN Security Council," Mr Netanyahu said, claiming that Mr Obama had made a commitment in 2011 not to impose any final conditions on Israel at the Security Council.

“The decision taken at the UN yesterday was part of the swan song of the old world biased against Israel,” the prime minister added.

“We are entering a new era and as the President-elect Trump said yesterday, this is going to happen much quicker than people think. In this new era there is a high price for those trying to harm Israel.”

The White House declined to comment on Mr Netanyahu's criticism. A spokesperson said earlier that the decision to abstain was made in the “absence of a meaningful peace process.”

Mr Netanyahu’s remarks are indicative of how bitter the relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government has become. The refusal to use the US’s veto as a permanent member of the Security Council has been widely interpreted as Mr Obama’s ‘parting shot’ after eight years of increasingly icy relations.

Israeli expansion over the agreed 1967 Green Line - which has gone up 23 per cent under Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing administration – is viewed as one of the major stumbling blocks to a lasting peace deal in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The UN’s vote is largely symbolic, but reiterated the international community’s desire for a two-state solution, both Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said on Friday.

The UN’s resolution demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”, but Israel has said it will not abide by the document’s dictates, which Mr Netanyahu called “distorted.”

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The resolution, originally tabled by Egypt, was withdrawn after intense lobbying by both the Israeli state and incoming President-elect Trump but was proposed again the next day by Venezuela, Malaysia, Senegal and New Zealand.

Israel has cut off diplomatic ties with Senegal and New Zealand and summoned the ambassadors of all the other Security Council member countries, the Foreign Ministry confirmed on Sunday. Israel has no diplomatic relations with either Venezuela or Malaysia.

After the vote took place Mr Trump tweeted that “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan 20th”, when he takes office.

The incoming president is likely to be more sympathetic to Israeli policy, and has appointed the pro-settlement David Friedman as the US’ next ambassador to the country.

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