Israel abstains on pro-Ukraine UN resolution after Kyiv backed Palestinian measure

One Israeli official says abstention on reparations for Ukraine unrelated to Kyiv-backed vote requesting ICJ legal opinion on Israeli ‘occupation’

Residents gather next to an internet hotspot in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Residents gather next to an internet hotspot in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Israel on Monday was the only Western country to abstain in a United Nations General Assembly vote on a resolution supporting a mechanism for Russia to pay reparations for invading Ukraine, in an apparent act of retaliation days after Kyiv voted to advance an anti-Israel resolution through the same body.

The Israeli Mission to the UN did not issue a statement explaining the decision, but the Ynet news site quoted an Israeli official who said it was not motivated by frustration with Ukraine, which voted in favor of a resolution last Friday that requested the International Court of Justice weigh in on the on Israel’s “prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory.”

Instead, the official explained that Israel fears that Monday’s vote in favor of reparations for Ukraine will create a precedent that will be applied to Palestinian refugees. However, the news site also quoted another Israeli diplomat who characterized the Monday vote by Israel as “childish.”

Regardless, the decision to abstain in the latest vote was made before Ukraine voted to advance the anti-Israel resolution on Friday, according to Ynet, which did not cite a source.

Israel’s vote on Monday represented a departure from a trend for Jerusalem at the UN where it has backed pro-Ukrainian measures after hesitance to do so in the early days of Russia’s invasion amid fears of damaging ties with Russia.

The resolution, which is non-binding, calls for the creation of a framework for Russian reparations for the war which began on February 24 and has left well over 200,000 people on both sides dead or injured, according to US estimates.

Referring to the invasion of Ukraine, it said Russia “must bear the legal consequences of all of its internationally wrongful acts, including making reparation for the injury, including any damage, caused by such acts.”

It also called for the creation of a formal register of damage incurred by Ukraine and Ukrainians in the war and caused by Russia.

The assembly voted 94-14 as it passed the resolution, while 63 countries — including Israel — abstained.

That was well short of the 143 countries voting in favor of a resolution on October 12 to condemn Russia for the “illegal annexation” of Ukrainian territory.

In that vote, five opposed the document and 35 abstained.

Countries opposing it included Russia, China, Cuba, Mali and Ethiopia.

Israeli envoy to the UN Gilad Erdan addresses the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee as it votes on measures addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the United Nations in New York, November 11, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Many countries in Africa abstained, as did Brazil and India.

Before the General Assembly, Ukraine’s envoy Sergiy Kyslytsya argued there was a precedent for reparations: the $52.4 billion Iraq had to pay for damage from its 1990 failed takeover of Kuwait.

That was overseen by a UN body created specifically for the case, the UN Compensation Commission.

The passage of the resolution Monday is only a partial step toward creating a reparations mechanism for Ukraine.

But it could eventually lead to Kyiv making claims on the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Russian assets frozen by the United States and European allies since the beginning of the war.

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