Donald Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn and other members of his team reportedly tried to convince members of the United Nations Security Council to vote against a draft resolution condemning Israel’s settlements, a month before the new president was sworn in and while Barack Obama was still in office.
According to a report published Friday by Foreign Policy magazine, former army general Flynn — who resigned last week over his discussions with Moscow’s ambassador in Washington about Obama’s sanctions on Russia for meddling in the presidential election — headed a diplomatic initiative by the incoming administration to foil a UN resolution against settlements.
Despite Flynn’s and the Trump transition team’s “vigorous diplomatic bid,” as the magazine described it, none of the members of the Security Council was swayed and UN resolution 2334 passed.
Israel’s government, parts of the pro-Israel community and congressional Republicans were infuriated in late December when the Obama administration, in its final month, for the first time allowed through a settlement-bashing UN Security Council resolution on its watch.
The magazine described the Trump administration’s first foray into international diplomacy as being noted for “brusque disregard for diplomatic protocol and a hasty pressure campaign that changed few, if any, minds.”
Trump’s transition team reportedly asked the State Department to hand over all contact information for the Security Council’s 14 other members ahead of the December 23 vote on the resolution, which branded Israeli settlements as illegal, and said Jerusalem and West Bank land captured by Israel in the 1967 war, including the Old City, was occupied Palestinian territory.
The request was denied, but the Trump team attempted to persuade Egypt and the United Kingdom to oppose the motion.
Flynn made calls to ambassadors of states on the council (Foreign Policy mentioned Uruguay and Malaysia) in a bid to have them change their vote against the resolution, to no avail.
President Donald Trump condemned the vote at the time, questioning the efficacy of the United Nations, and promising that “things will be different” when he took office as president.
The motion that passed after the US abstained — UNSC Resolution 2334 — designates the settlement enterprise “a flagrant violation under international law” and calls for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel captured after the 1967 Six Day War, including East Jerusalem and the Old City, which includes the Temple Mount and Western Wall, the holiest sites in Judaism.
It also calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” — language that Israel feared would lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts, and that an Israeli official warned would provide “a tailwind for terror.”
Former president Barack Obama, for his part, defended the move as advancing peace and maintaining Israel’s long-term Jewish and democratic character, and dismissed the notion that he betrayed Israel.