A senior official in the Obama administration on Friday denied accusations by an Israeli official that Washington had pushed an upcoming anti-settlement vote at the UN Security Council behind Israel’s back.
“Contrary to some claims, the administration was not involved in formulating the resolution nor have we promoted it,” the unnamed official told Reuters.
US officials also said they had not yet communicated to Security Council members in New York how they would vote on the resolution, which was expected to be brought to a vote at 2 p.m. local time (9 p.m. in Israel).
The Israeli official launched a furious personal attack on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, accusing them of nothing less than the “abandonment of Israel,” for scheming behind Israel’s back to push the resolution through the council.
Using language unprecedented in its anger and personal nature, even by the standards of two terms of friction-filled ties between the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration, the official declared that “President Obama and Secretary Kerry are behind this shameful move against Israel at the UN.”
Referring to an Egyptian resolution that was introduced late Wednesday and withdrawn by Cairo on Thursday, the official charged that “the US administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back which would be a tailwind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory.” (The draft resolution refers to East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory.)
Palestinian and Egyptian officials met earlier in the month with State Department officials in Washington, Channel 2 noted Friday evening, and it was in those talks, Israel believes, that plans were coordinated to push through the anti-settlements resolution. Hence the official’s reference to the US administration having “cooked up” the resolution.
The official noted that “President Obama could declare his willingness to veto this resolution in an instant but instead is pushing it. This is an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN and undermines the prospects of working with the next administration to advance peace.”
The extraordinarily bitter denunciation came shortly after the Security Council scheduled a vote on the same resolution at UN headquarters in New York. The vote was rescheduled for Friday afternoon following Egypt’s decision — after a conversation between President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and President-elect Donald Trump — to withdraw the resolution hours before a vote on Thursday evening. New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela stepped in to revive the resolution.
Channel 2 news reported on Friday evening that in a phone call to Netanyahu on Thursday, Kerry refused to commit to vetoing the resolution.
The unnamed Israeli official’s comments Friday followed a series of anonymous Israeli criticisms of the Obama administration over the resolution on Thursday.
The effort to push through the anti-settlements resolution constituted a diplomatic “hit” by Obama against Netanyahu and the settlement enterprise, a senior source in Jerusalem was quoted by Israeli television as saying on Thursday night.
Unconfirmed reports earlier Thursday claimed the Obama administration was preparing to abstain on the vote, and wouldn’t employ its veto. An Israeli official told reporters Thursday that Israel “became aware” that the administration would not veto the resolution, and therefore reached out to Trump for help.
Cairo’s decision to withdraw the resolution marked the first fruits of “cooperation between Trump and Netanyahu against Obama,” Channel 2 reported.
It said Netanyahu sought the assistance of the US president-elect earlier on Thursday, as part of an intensive diplomatic outreach to thwart the resolution, which called for a complete halt to Israeli settlement activity, and potentially paved the way for sanctions pressure against Israel. Trump publicly urged the Obama administration to veto the resolution; privately, said Channel 2, the Trump team conveyed messages to Cairo to withdraw the text.
“All the signs show that this was a [diplomatic] hit by Obama against Netanyahu and the settlements,” the TV report quoted a senior Israeli official saying.
The UN draft resolution submitted by Cairo called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”
It further expressed “grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution,” and called on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967,” which some analysts say invites boycotts of Israeli settlements goods.
The draft also condemned “all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,” which some in the international community understand as turning the resolution into a “balanced” text.
The US vetoed a similar resolution at the United Nations in 2011.
Eric Cortellessa and AP contributed to this report