An Israeli official said Wednesday that highest-level US administration officials phoned Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko directly to pressure him to support the United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements.
“Either Obama or Biden spoke to Poroshenko about the matter,” a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel, elaborating on Israel’s claims that the US worked behind the scenes to bolster the resolution and to ensure that it was supported by all the other countries on the council.
According to one highly placed Israeli official who spoke to Tablet Magazine, it was Biden who personally intervened to ensure that Ukraine would support the resolution. “Did Biden put pressure on the Ukrainians? Categorically yes,” said a source within the Israeli government. “That Biden told them to do it is 1000% true,” he said.
Although both Ukraine and US acknowledge a December 19 phone call between Poroshenko and Biden, US officials explicitly denied that there was any discussion of the UNSC resolution.
Colin Kahl, Biden’s national security adviser, tweeted a series of sweeping denials that the vice president discussed the matter with Kiev. “The Vice President frequently calls Poroshenko, but no calls or contact on UNSCR,” he tweeted. “The VP did not reach out to the Ukrainians on the UNSCR” and “There was no VP/OVP contact on the issue,” he claimed.
A spokesperson for Poroshenko refused to confirm or deny that Biden lobbied him on the issue, Tablet reported.
The Obama administration has denied any pre-vote involvement with UNSC Resolution 2334, which says that the settlement enterprise “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law” and calls for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel gained after the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The US abstained on the vote, allowing it to pass 14-0.
“We did not draft this resolution; we did not introduce this resolution. We made this decision when it came up for a vote,” Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said on Friday. Because of its opposition to settlement activity and concern for what it could mean for the region, the US “could not in good conscience veto,” he added.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has publicly accused Obama of “ambushing” Israel at the UN with the “shameful” resolution, has fumed at the White House for withholding its veto and allowing it to pass, and has also accused Obama of proposing and pushing the measure “behind Israel’s back.”
“We have ironclad information that emanates from sources in the Arab world and that shows the Obama administration helped craft this resolution and pushed hard for its eventual passage,” said David Keyes, spokesman for Netanyahu.
On Tuesday an Egyptian paper published what it said were transcripts of a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, in which the Americans reportedly told the Palestinians they would work with them on a resolution.
Ukraine’s vote was particularly disappointing to Jerusalem because Israel recently supported Ukraine in a UN vote condemning Russian aggression in Crimea. Poroshenko visited Israel in September and held positive talks with Netanyahu.
“Recently Israel supported our country in the United Nations… against the Russian occupation of Crimea,” Ukrainian MP Oleg Lyashko posted in Ukrainian on Facebook.
In the wake of the vote, Netanyahu disinvited Volodymyr Groysman, Ukraine’s first Jewish prime minister, who 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 top officials.
Ukraine on Monday defended its decision to vote in favor of Resolution 2234, hinting at its own conflict with Russia as a driving force behind the decision.
Without explicitly mentioning Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and a civil war in the country’s east with Russian-backed separatists, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it “experienced itself the tragic consequences brought by” the violation of international law, effectively drawing a parallel between Israeli building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Russian policies.
“That’s why our position was formed on the basis of our consistent line to ensure the respect for the international law by all its subjects,” the statement read.