Israel summons French envoy over Palestine UN vote

Foreign Ministry seeks ‘clarifications’ over Paris’s willingness to set timetable for Israeli pullout from West Bank

French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)
French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry summoned France’s ambassador to Israel, Patrick Maisonnave, for “clarifications” Wednesday over his country’s vote in favor of a UN Security Council resolution that aimed to establish a timetable for a full Israeli pullout from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

A meeting between the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general for Western Europe, Aviv Shir-On, and Maisonnave is set to take place Friday, Haaretz reported.

Despite objections to the wording of the resolution and a failed attempt to bring forth a much more moderate version of the measure, France backed the resolution because of an “urgent need to act,” Francois Delattre, France’s permanent representative to the UN, told the council on Tuesday.

He expressed disappointment that efforts to negotiate a text that could win consensus failed: “Our efforts must not stop here. It is our responsibility to try again, before it’s too late.”

Aside from France, seven countries voted in favor of the resolution, only one vote short of the nine needed for the measure to pass, which would have necessitated a US veto. The United States and Australia voted against the bid, and five countries abstained.

Earlier this month, French lawmakers voted in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state following similar moves in Britain and Spain.

The highly symbolic vote in the lower house National Assembly was not binding on French government policy but sparked criticism from Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned it would be a “grave mistake.”

Tuesday’s vote at the Security Council came after a three-month Palestinian campaign to win support for a resolution that would have set a three-year timeline for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders.

Israel hailed the rejection as a victory, saying it dealt a blow to Palestinian efforts to diplomatically “embarrass and isolate” the Jewish state.

The Palestinians denounced as “outrageously shameful” the failure of the text to win the necessary nine votes for passage, potentially forcing a US veto. The US, which backs a negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had made clear it would veto the motion if necessary. Abbas and the Palestinian leadership had been confident that the necessary nine votes were locked in, but miscalculated.

The resolution would have set a 12-month deadline for Israel to reach a final peace deal with the Palestinians and called for a full withdrawal of Israeli troops by the end of 2017.

Following the failed vote, Abbas signed a request Wednesday to join the International Criminal Court, a move that would establish a new avenue for action against Israel.

In a live broadcast from the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas signed 20 international treaties, including the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document.

The Palestinians hope ICC membership will pave the way for war crimes prosecutions against Israeli officials. Abbas did not specify Wednesday when he planned to file complaints against Israel, or the specifics of such intended complaints, which it may be feasible to file within the next few weeks.

Israel, however, maintains it is Palestinian crimes that would be exposed to the judgment of the Hague-based court.

Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.

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