Deputy FM questions PM’s diplomatic embargos after UN vote

In apparent jab at Netanyahu for canceling meetings with world leaders, Hotovely says ‘part of diplomacy is explaining our position’

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (Elram Mendel)
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (Elram Mendel)

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Tuesday expressed reservations about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s harsh reaction to countries who voted for a UN Security Council vote criticizing Israel’s settlements, saying she didn’t think it was appropriate to cancel diplomatic meetings in protest.

Speaking in two interviews on Israeli radio, Hotovely said she would prefer the opportunity to explain Israel’s position to representatives of the 14 countries who voted for the motion rather than boycotting them.

“I don’t think that we need to cancel official visits,” she told Army Radio.

“Part of diplomacy is explaining clearly what our position is and why these countries are damaging their own interests,” she added, in an apparent jab at Netanyahu’s recent decision to scupper a visit to Israel this week by Ukraine’s prime minister, his reported cancellation of a meeting with British leader Theresa May and his instructions to ministers to minimize working relations with the countries that supported the resolution.

In a separate interview with Israel Radio, Hotovely said meeting with foreign leaders was the only way Israel could present its position fully.

“We need to get rid of this false term, the phrase ‘occupied territory.’ This is Israel’s territory — the Land of Israel,” she added. “Israel doesn’t intend to tell any one what to do but will also not accept being told what to do by anyone.”

But Hotovely also conceded that as foreign minister, Netanyahu has the right to make those decisions on his own and said she would “respect his position.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, December 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Since the measure was passed, Israel has taken a number of retaliatory steps against the countries that supported its passage, including an official dressing-down of the Security Council members’ ambassadors to Israel on Sunday, Christmas Day.

Netanyahu on Saturday disinvited Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman after Kiev voted in favor of the resolution.

Groysman, who became his country’s first-ever Jewish prime minister earlier this year, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday for a two-day visit that would have included meetings with Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other senior officials.

Volodymir Groysman. (Wikimedia Commons/via JTA)
Volodymir Groysman. (Wikimedia Commons/via JTA)

Netanyahu’s office has denied reports that he nixed a meeting with Theresa May next month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying that no meeting had been set. But the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Tony Kay, told The Times of Israel on Monday there had been plans for a sit-down, though Jerusalem had not told London it planned to cancel the meeting.

Netanyahu has also reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to minmize all working ties with the 12 of countries that voted in favor of the decision with which Israel has diplomatic relations. Foreign ministers from the countries will reportedly no longer be able to meet with Netanyahu or Foreign Ministry officials.

In addition, travel by Israeli ministers to the countries will be kept to a minimum, an official said.

Of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council, 14 voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which demands a halt to all Israeli settlement activity — including in East Jerusalem — with one abstention, that of the US, whose veto would have nixed the measure.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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