Fearing UN vote on principles of Palestinian statehood, PM ‘reaching out to Trump’
TV reports: Netanyahu is wary that Kerry will set out parameters for permanent accord, then outgoing Obama administration will seek Security Council approval
Amid escalating fallout from the UN Security Council vote Friday that condemned Israel’s settlement activities, a furious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reported on Sunday night to be attempting to “recruit” the incoming Trump administration and the US Congress to block a feared bid by the outgoing Obama administration to have the Security Council approve principles for a Palestinian state.
“They are spitting at us,” Netanyahu has told colleagues behind closed doors, Channel 2 news reported. “We will respond forcefully.”
Netanyahu held a 40-minute meeting with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro on Sunday evening, having summoned the envoy to explain why the US abstained in the vote on Resolution 2334, enabling it to pass 14-0, rather than vetoing it. He had earlier summoned the envoys of the 12 nations with representatives in Israel that voted for the resolution for a dressing-down at the Foreign Ministry.
Underlining Israel’s determination to press ahead with building beyond the pre-1967 lines, the Jerusalem municipality will this week approve some new homes in Ramat Shlomo and Ramot, neighborhoods captured in 1967 and subsequently annexed by Israel as part of Jerusalem, Channel 2 news reported.
Netanyahu is now reaching out to the incoming Trump administration, which takes office on January 20, and to friends in Congress, in the hope of “deterring” what he sees as further potential Obama administration-led diplomatic action against Israel, the Channel 2 report said. His aim is for the Trump team to make plain that his administration will “economically hurt” those countries that voted against Israel in the UN and that do so in the future.
Netanyahu’s fear is that Secretary of State John Kerry will set out principles or parameters for a Palestinian state in a speech that he has said he will deliver in the next few days on his Middle East vision. The prime minister fears that, in its final days, the Obama administration will seek to have a resolution enshrining those parameters adopted by the UN Security Council, the report said.
France is to hold a conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on January 15, and Netanyahu expects that Kerry will attend, that the Middle East Quartet — the US, UN, Russia and EU — will coordinate their positions at that summit, and that they will then turn to the Security Council in the very last days of the Obama presidency, a Channel 10 report further suggested.
Such speculation was not confirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office, but Netanyahu has made public his outrage at the Obama administration several times since Resolution 2334 was passed, claiming that the president initiated and helped draft the resolution “behind Israel’s back.” He has variously called the resolution skewed, shameful and ridiculous — in part because it brands Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Temple Mount and Western Wall, “occupied Palestinian territory.”
Lighting festive Hanukkah candles at the Western Wall on Sunday night, Netanyahu stressed that Israel “cannot accept” the UN resolution, and asked: “How could they vote that [the Western Wall] is occupied territory? We were here much earlier.”
In an address on Saturday night, Netanyahu had likened President Barack Obama to the former president Jimmy Carter, who he said was “deeply hostile” to Israel. He described the vote in the Security Council as “the swan song of the old world that is anti-Israel.” Now, he said, “we are entering a new era. And as President-elect Trump said, it’s going to happen a lot faster than people think.” In this new era, it will be a lot more costly for those who seek to harm Israel, he warned.
The prime minister was also widely reported Sunday to have either canceled or opted not to schedule a meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos next month; his spokesman said no such meeting had ever been arranged. He was also said to have chosen not to schedule a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. He has already recalled Israel’s ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand, two of the four countries that co-sponsored the resolution. (Israel has no ties with the other two sponsors, Malaysia and Venezuela.)
Netanyahu also reportedly told his cabinet ministers at a meeting on Sunday morning to reduce to a minimum their engagement with all the countries that voted for the resolution and with which Israel has ties — China, Russia, France, the UK, Spain, Egypt, Angola, Ukraine, Uruguay, Japan, New Zealand and Senegal. They were told to minimize any visits to those countries, and that he would not receive visits from their foreign ministers.
On Saturday, Netanyahu canceled this week’s scheduled visit to Israel of Ukraine’s prime minister.
Addressing the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated his staunch opposition to Resolution 2334.
“We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated its versions and insisted upon its passage,” he said.