JERUSALEM — The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel B. Shapiro, was requested Sunday to attend a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the United States' refusal to block a U.N. Security Council resolution that harshly criticized Israeli settlements, a senior official in the prime minister's office said.
Passing by a vote of 14 to 0, the resolution declares that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have “no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation under international law.” It also calls the settlements a major obstacle to achieving a two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians.
Breaking with a long-standing policy of blocking resolutions dealing with Israel, the United States did not use its veto powers to stop its passage, opting to abstain instead.
U.S. declines to veto U.N. Security Council resolution for Israel to stop Jewish settlement activity
The summons were part of a series of diplomatic measures announced by Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s foreign minister, since the resolution was adopted Friday.
Israeli media reported Sunday that Netanyahu had instructed members of his cabinet to refrain from traveling to countries that voted for the resolution.
Following the U.N. vote, Netanyahu recalled Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal and canceled scheduled trips to Israel by the Senegalese foreign minister and Ukraine’s prime minister. He also said that Israeli aid to Senegal will be canceled and that contributions Israel makes to five U.N. agencies will be halted.
“I share my ministers’ feelings of anger and frustration vis-a-vis the unbalanced resolution,” Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday.
He laid blame for the resolution squarely on the shoulders of President Obama.
“From the information we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu said.
He said the move contradicted traditional American policy not to dictate terms of a permanent peace agreement on Israel.
“Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments had disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue,” he said. “As I told [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry on Thursday, friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”
Netanyahu’s anger was matched by more-militant voices in his right-wing coalition.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, held a news conference at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, saying the city has been the capital of Jews for 3,000 years.
He said that in response to the resolution, Israel should evaluate its approach to the 1994 Oslo Accords, which set out a plan for two states, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians. He said that Israel should instead impose sovereignty on land it captured after the 1967 war. He also urged the government to ramp up construction in Israeli settlements, built on land the Palestinians hope to use for a state.
The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem estimates that there are close to 600,000 Israelis living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The figures are based on data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. Palestinians say the figure is probably higher.
Over the past six months, Israel has announced plans to add hundreds of units to existing settlements, each time drawing a rebuke from the White House. More recently, right-wing voices in Netanyahu’s government have been pushing legislation to legalize settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The U.S. abstention Friday was a rare rebuke to Israel, reflecting mounting frustration in the Obama administration over settlement growth. With his time in office due to end in less than a month, Obama’s decision not to veto was a last-minute symbolic statement of that displeasure and a sense of exasperation that the time has come for two states to be carved out of the contested land.
Responding with a strongly worded statement, Netanyahu said the Obama administration had “not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it has colluded with it behind the scenes.”
He said he looked forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump “to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.” Media reports Sunday said Netanyahu had instructed Foreign Ministry officials to look into ways to overturn the resolution.
Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and until recently the director general of the Foreign Ministry, said it was possible to bring another resolution to supersede the previous one.
This happened, he said, with a 1975 U.N. decision stating that Zionism is racism. It took nearly 20 years and a unique set of political circumstances, including the support of former U.S. president George H.W. Bush, to change that decision, Gold said.
“I can’t speculate about the Trump administration, but I think his instincts about how this resolution damages peacemaking and negotiations are absolutely correct,” said Gold, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1997 to 1999.
“Netanyahu’s self-righteousness that this resolution is going to be changed or reversed by Trump is totally unfounded,” said Alon Pinkas, a former diplomat and adviser to Israeli prime ministers. “If he really thinks this can happen, then either he is panicking or plainly misleading.”
Pinkas said that while the resolution was unlikely to have any immediate consequences, in the long term it could set an international precedent on Israel and its settlements.