Netanyahu slams Obama, rejects UNSC resolution
Israel on Saturday termed as “despicable” and “shameful” the US’ move to abstain from vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning its settlements in Palestine, accusing the Obama administration of colluding with Jerusalem’s detractors in Israel’s “harassment”.
However, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes was quoted as saying that Israel had ample opportunity to promote a policy that would have prevented the US abstention and refusal to veto, but that while he talks about a two-state solution, his actions make such a step unattainable.
The resolution demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and said the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
Netanyahu criticized both Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry as being behind the resolution, together with the Palestinians. Kerry responded to the decision by stating that the Security Council is right to admonish Israel for its incitement and activity in the settlements. He called upon both sides to work toward a two-state solution.
“Israel categorically rejects the despicable anti-Israeli resolution at the UN, and will not adhere to it,” Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office said in a terse statement after the UNSC voted in favour of the motion condemning Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem 14-0, with close ally America abstaining from the vote.
“While the Security Council does nothing to prevent the massacre of half a million people in Syria, it is shamefully singling out Israel — the only democracy in the Middle East. The Obama administration not only failed to defend Israel from this harassment at the UN, it cooperated with it behind the scenes,” the PMO statement said.
In what is being seen as a final repudiation of the Obama administration, with which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often been at loggerheads, the PMO said that Israel was “looking forward to working with President-elect [Donald] Trump and with our friends in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, to undo the damage of this absurd resolution.”
Trump promptly reacted in a tweet saying, “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20th”, a clear signal that the strategic ties between Israel and the US would continue as usual once he takes charge.
Friday’s UN resolution, which emphatically admonishes the Israeli settlement expansion, has caused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to wholly reject its position and accuse US President Barack Obama of working behind the scenes to bring it about.
The White House has rejected accusations that call the move a personal attack orchestrated by Obama against Netanyahu owing to the animosity between the two. When asked by CNN reporter Jim Acosta whether this was “President Obama getting back at Prime Minister Netanyahu,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said, “absolutely not.” He then added, “The fact of the matter is that bipartisan policy of the US government for decades has been to oppose settlements.”
Asked whether the move signaled that the White House US has abandoned Israel, Rhodes responded that “It’s just not backed up by the record,” and that the US has consistently looked out for Israel’s interests at the UN. This remained true under President Obama, who earlier this year had passed a $38 billion aid package to Israel, the largest package the US has ever given an ally.
The US’s abstention nevertheless marked a drastic change from US policy, which has traditionally struck down any anti-Israeli resolutions. This time, not only did the US not exercise its veto right, but US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power abstained from the vote. Had the US voted in favor, the resolution would have been unanimously accepted.
The Islamist Arab World, except Egypt, was quick to welcome the resolution’s passing. Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman congratulated the Security Council for taking a stand against the settlements and expressed hope for “establishing a just and general peace for the Palestinian people.” He added that the settlement building “contradicts decisions made by the international community and specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention treaty.” The Saudi delegation to the UN said that “Implementing the decision would be a step toward actualizing the Arab peace initiative.”
Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit issued a statement, saying that the resolution expresses the international community’s support of the Palestinian people’s historic struggle to attain their legitimate rights. He added that he hopes the decision will push Israel to become more committed to this and other decisions made by the international community.
The Palestinian Authority also responded, saying that it considers the UN’s acceptance of the resolution “a big blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements and a strong support for the two-state solution,” a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. “This is a day of victory for international law, a victory for civilized language and negotiation, and a total rejection of extremist forces in Israel,” said Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Jordan Government Spokesperson Mohammad Al-Momani also responded to the UN resolution, calling it “a historic decision.” Al-Momani said that it reflected the international community’s general consensus view, which considers the Israeli settlements illegal, while also highlighting the Palestinian people’s right to its land while supporting a two-state solution.