Israel Reaps the Whirlwind
PALESTINE - ISRAEL, 2 Jan 2017
Reports from Daily Telegraph and Columnist Nahum Barnea, Ynet News
By Sara Elizabeth Williams, Amman, Daily Telegraph
December 25, 2016
Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to cancel a meeting with Theresa May in the wake of the landmark anti-settlement resolution at the UN Security Council.
The Israeli prime minister also recalled 10 ambassadors to members of the UNSC on Sunday, including the UK, and, in a highly unusual move, the US ambassador.
The US state department said Mr Netanyahu would meet on Sunday night with Daniel Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel.
Mr Netanyahu restated earlier unattributed claims by the Israeli government that Washington, which abstained from the vote, had conspired with the Palestinians to push for the resolution’s adoption.
Speaking to a weekly meeting of his Cabinet, Mr Netanyahu said Israel was also considering a “plan of action” against the UN, without elaborating.
“We will do all it takes so Israel emerges unscathed from this shameful decision,” Mr Netanyahu said.
A scheduled meeting between Mr Netanyahu and Mrs May that was due to take place at the World Economic Summit in Davos in January will be cancelled, Israeli media reported.
A furious Mr Netanyahu has vowed retaliation in the wake of Friday’s vote.
The timing of the recall of ambassadors, on Christmas Day, caused anger among some diplomats.
“What would they have said in Jerusalem if we summoned the Israeli ambassador on Yom Kippur,” one Western diplomat told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper after the summons, which included the British ambassador.
It came as Mr Netanyahu lashed out at ally America after its abstention enabled the resolution to pass.
For years, the US has used its veto to protect Israel from UN criticism. Friday’s resolution, which called Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem a “flagrant violation of international law”, passed with 14 votes for and one abstention, from US ambassador Samantha Power.
The resolution calls on the nations of the world “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
While there was applause in the Security Council chamber in New York, there was fury in Jerusalem.
Israel has refused to recognise resolution 2334. Mr Netanyahu accused US President Barack Obama of carrying out a “shameful ambush” and going back on a 2011 commitment to protect Israel in that very chamber.
“I told John Kerry – friends do not take friends to the UN Security Council,” said Mr Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader vowed swift retaliation, and on Sunday delivered with his diplomatic recall. He also vowed punitive action against New Zealand and Senegal, two of the resolution’s four co-sponsors. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Malaysia and Venezuela, the other co-sponsors.
While Mr Netanyahu claims to have been abandoned by his longtime ally, Israel remains the world’s top recipient of US military aid after inking a record $38bn 10-year deal in September. Friday’s vote will have no bearing on this support.
The resolution has been lauded by Arab leaders including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah Sisi took the opposite view, delaying the vote after pressure from Israel and, it is thought, US President-Elect Donald Trump.
Mr Trump criticized the UN vote, tweeting that “things would be different” after he takes office on January 20.
Mr Trump’s involvement with such affairs before his swearing in marks a break from protocol, but curried favour with Mr Netanyahu, who said he was looking forward to working with “friend” Mr Trump.
“The decision taken at the UN yesterday was part of the swan song of the old world biased against Israel,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“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 blow Israel suffered at the UN on Friday will be followed by another blow this week as US Secretary of State Kerry presents his outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. If one of the Security Council member states decides to translate this speech into a resolution in the next three weeks, we should expect another drama in New York.
Ynet Op-ed by Nahum Barnea
December 25, 2016
The blow that the United Nations Security Council dealt to Israel on Friday will be followed another blow this week in the form of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech, which will present an outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Kerry was scheduled to deliver the speech last Wednesday, but was forced to postpone it because of the Security Council vote. He will deliver it this week.
Kerry’s speech will specify parameters and principles [that] are supposed to guide Israel and the Palestinians, including borders based on the 1967 lines with land swaps, a demilitarized Palestinian state, a right of return to the Palestinian state only, and more. This speech—not an anti-settlement resolution—was what the Israeli government has been afraid of in the past few months, vigorously lobbying in Washington and in the international community, including harsh comments made by senior Israeli officials against Kerry and US President Barack Obama.
The speech, from a secretary of state who is about to retire, won’t change much. A source in the White House told me Saturday night that the administration has no intention at the moment of taking any further action concerning Israel. But if one of the member states decides to translate the speech into a resolution that will be voted on by the Security Council in the next three weeks, we are in for another drama in New York. The Obama administration will find it difficult to veto a resolution that echoes comments of the senior member of Obama’s cabinet. The result could be another threat, much worse, to Israel’s standing in the international community.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sown the wind and Israel is reaping the whirlwind.
The blatant language Netanyahu used Saturday evening to respond to the American abstention in the Security Council vote points to the intensity of the blow. “It was a shameful ambush by the Obama administration,” the prime minister said. “A disgrace.” These are words which an Israeli prime minister should not be casting at an incumbent American president, especially as it is unlikely that there is any factual basis for his claim on this case. Netanyahu thinks he can do whatever US President-elect Donald Trump allows himself to do. The frog wishes to become an ox.
President Obama is spending his Christmas holiday in Hawaii, the state he was born in. On Wednesday, he held a conference call from there with Kerry, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, and senior National Security Council officials. The subject was the proposal raised at the Security Council on the settlement issue. The question was whether to veto the resolution or abstain.
As opposed to what has been reported, the American delegation was not surprised by the proposal. Rumours began been circulating several days earlier. Their initial inclination was to recommend a veto, arguing that the proposal was unbalanced. The Palestinian delegation, with a lot of sophistication, managed to moderate the proposal and adjust it to the American policy. The administration says it was uninvolved in the move in any way.
Obama thought it over. A senior administration official I spoke to on Saturday night said that the argument that tipped the scales for the president was the Regulation Bill and a series of other statements, made by Netanyahu and some of his ministers, on the settlements. çFor eight years, the administration has been making a supreme effort to support Netanyahu. Not only has it not worked, it has done the opposite.”
According to the source, the president’s gut feeling was that this time the US should abstain. Nonetheless, he reread the wording several times before making a decision. He reaffirmed the decision the next day, Thursday, when the new version was presented. Did President-elect Donald Trump’s interference affect the decision? Probably. Trump has been voicing his opinion every night on issues that are under the incumbent president’s authority. This behaviour is unusual, but it’s not unprecedented. Richard Nixon, Trump’s role model, acted the same way. The result is two clashing American administrations. Obama fought back: He made a series of decisions establishing facts on the ground, which Trump will have a very hard time changing. A Security Council resolution fits into this policy.
Moreover, the Israeli government, quite insolently, turned to Trump on this issue and got him to pressure Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to withdraw his proposal. White House officials were astonished. They had never dreamed that the governments in Cairo and Jerusalem would work together to thwart a UN resolution against the settlements. Neither had they dreamed that Israel would secretly turn to Vladimir Putin’s Russia to veto a Security Council resolution that the Americans decided to abstain on.
All these amazing tricks ended in total failure. The Egyptians pulled their proposal, but New Zealand rushed to put it back on the agenda. The Russians favored the Arabs over Israel. They have been doing that consistently since the early 1950s. Israel’s courtship of Russia generated a bitter smile on the face of our friends in Washington. Russia, Iran’s ally in the war in Syria, is the Israeli government’s great hope. The practical meaning of the Security Council resolution is limited. Every three months, a report on the construction in the settlements will be submitted to the council. Someone will suggest imposing sanctions on Israel. The US will veto such a decision. Eventually, the issue will be dragged to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The US is not a member of that court.
The resolution will have further implications. At the US Congress, proposals will be raised to halt the American aid to the UN and its institutions. Such proposals match the direction Trump is pushing towards and have a good chance of being adopted. Severing ties between the next administration and the UN could change the entire system of international relations. And that is, of course, just the beginning. Trump wants to change the delicate balance between nuclear powers in the world. What impact will that have?
The Israeli government will be forced to follow in the Americans’ footsteps. The result will be an increased Israeli dependence on America and a smaller chance to improve relations with the oil states and African states. On Saturday, Netanyahu punished Senegal, recalled the Israeli ambassador from New Zealand for consultations and postponed a visit by the Ukrainian prime minister. Big deal. He didn’t recall the ambassadors from Moscow, Beijing, Paris, London or, Heaven forbid, Washington.
The main problem he is facing is internal. The Bayit Yehudi party is demanding that, in response to the resolution, Israel annex Ma’ale Adumim and launch a construction boom in the West Bank. Netanyahu knows that such a decision will only speed up the process that will lead us to a South Africa-style boycott. He knows his voters: They will applaud any aggressive statement, but will get mad once they are required to get a visa for their next flight to watch a Real Madrid-Barcelona soccer match.
After 50 years of winking, leading astray, and self-deceiving, the world is trying to tell us, with a majority of 14 versus zero, that the moment of truth has arrived.
Like many Israelis, I am concerned by the expected damages and angry about the mistakes made on the way, about the arrogance, about the foot dragging, about the stalemate. But essence comes first. After 50 years of winking, leading astray, and self-deceiving, the world is trying to tell us, with a majority of 14 versus zero, that the moment of truth has arrived. We cannot continue building settlements and praying for peace at the same time. Both the Amona settlers and the human rights organizations are right about this issue. We cannot keep eating our cake and have it too. The question is not settlements or peace: There will be no peace in the foreseeable future. The question is settlements or the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, which is a member of the international community.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on Saturday that during his term there was four times more settlement construction, and the world congratulated him because at the same time he made an effort to reach an agreement. That is the exact wink that has failed us over the years. “The resolution,” Netanyahu’s spokespeople said Saturday, “sabotages the negotiations.” Which negotiations is it sabotaging, if there are no negotiations?
Netanyahu is relying on Trump. He may be right: Trump will solve all his problems. He should just remember that in Trump’s world there is only one Trump. If he refers to Trump as he referred to Obama, he will suffer a much heavier blow than the one he suffered at the Security Council over the weekend.
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