Netanyahu, furious over UN vote on Jewish settlements, summons US ambassador

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 December, 2016, 8:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 December, 2016, 8:59am

Fuming over a United Nations Security Council resolution passed Friday that deems Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem illegal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the rare step of summoning the US ambassador to express his displeasure with the Obama administration for allowing the measure to pass.

The US abstained from voting on Security Council Resolution 2334, which passed 14-0. The decision not to exercise veto power as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council was criticised in Israel as a break with American policy to shield Israel at the UN.

The decision recognises all of the West Bank and Jerusalem captured by Israel and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war as “occupied Palestinian territory” and calls for an immediate and complete halt to Israeli building there.

There is no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated the drafts and demanded that it pass
Benjamin Netanyahu

Though the Security Council decision is expected to have little immediate effect, analysts say it could give added legal momentum to a possible effort to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court, or impose sanctions on Israel.

Speaking at the weekly meeting of his Cabinet Sunday morning, Netanyahu said he was angry over the UN vote, and accused the outgoing Obama administration of acting as the hidden hand behind passage of the resolution.

Israel condemns UN resolution on illegal settlements as ‘shameful’

“There is no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated the drafts and demanded that it pass,” he said.

Netanyahu requested a meeting with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro to discuss the decision.

Other Israeli politicians were more forceful in their criticism of the US administration. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said the Obama administration had stabbed Israel in the back. Michael Oren, a deputy minister and former ambassador to the US, said on Israel Television that the goal of the resolution is to “destroy” Israel economically by exposing it to sanctions and lawsuits.

The meeting with Shapiro was the latest in a series of diplomatic moves Israel has made in recent days to resist the resolution. Ambassadors of all 14 countries that supported the resolution in the Security Council were also called into the Foreign Ministry Sunday. Meanwhile, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the suspension of civilian and political meetings with the Palestinian Authority.

The international community considers the Jewish settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law and an obstacle to efforts to create a continuous Palestinian state in the territory. Israel says resolutions at the U.N. on the peace process are unilateral moves that will make it more difficult to restart negotiations, which have been dormant for two years.

Palestinian officials, who have criticised settlement expansion for years, hailed the resolution as a victory. Speaking to Israel Army Radio on Sunday, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the resolution supports a two-state solution. “What is disgraceful is the continuation of the building of settlements on what is supposed to be Palestinian land,” he said.

The passage of the resolution put Netanyahu on the defensive at home. Newspaper commentators said the prime minister clashed too many times with President Barack Obama and went too far to curry favour with pro-settlement politicians in his coalition –– for example, by supporting legislation to retroactively legalise settlement activity on Palestinian property.