US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend that the Obama administration has not yet made a decision on whether to back a UN Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after the November presidential elections.
Support for or promotion of such a resolution would mark a drastic change in policy for the US, which has consistently vetoed and/or threatened to veto any UN resolutions deemed unfavorable to Israel.
In a phone conversation on Saturday night, Netanyahu told Kerry he expects that the US will not support any diplomatic measures at the UN that are carried out without Israel’s consent, Haaretz newspaper reported. The prime minister also reiterated statements he made in a speech to the UN General Assembly last month, in which he said “peace will not come from statements and resolutions at the United Nations.”
But while Kerry listened to Netanyahu’s request, he told the prime minister that no decision on supporting future resolutions had yet been made, the report said.
Members of the Israeli government are worried that before leaving office in January but after his successor is chosen, US President Barack Obama may seek to impose or advance a solution to the conflict, or at least set out parameters for how it should be solved. These measures would include the Security Council, where the US would decide against using the veto granted to it as a permanent member of the Security Council for any anti-Israel resolutions.
Speaking at the UN in September a day before his final official meeting with Obama, Netanyahu sought to sow opposition to a change in US policy, praising Obama for using his veto for such resolutions in the past.
“A central pillar of that defense has been America’s consistent support for Israel at the UN. I appreciate President Obama’s commitment to that longstanding US policy,” he said from the podium at the General Assembly. “In fact, the only time that the United States cast a UN Security Council veto during the Obama presidency was against an anti-Israel resolution in 2011. As President Obama rightly declared at this podium, peace will not come from statements and resolutions at the United Nations.”
The phone conversation between Kerry and Netanayahu came amid a tussle between Israel and the US following Israeli approval last week of construction of new settlement housing units for the homeowners of the illegal outpost of Amona ahead of its court-ordered evacuation. The plan calls for two phases of construction, with a further 200 units to be approved after a first round of 98 homes is completed.
The US sharply criticized the announcement and, according to a Channel 2 report Thursday, was particularly infuriated that it came so soon after the Obama administration agreed a record-breaking 10-year military assistance package for Israel, and right after Obama came to Israel, in a show of respect and solidarity, for the funeral of former president Shimon Peres on September 30.
In a strongly worded statement, the State Department criticized Israel’s “recent decision to advance a plan that would create a significant new settlement deep in the West Bank.”
Invoking Peres’s spokesman Mark Toner added: “[I]t is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the US and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for the two state solution that he so passionately supported.”
In a possible attempt to ease tensions, Netanyahu also told Kerry that the planned new Israeli construction was intended for families evacuated from a nearby illegal outpost, and would go ahead only “if no other solution were found.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.