The American ambassador to Israel vociferously denied Thursday that the US decision to allow an anti-settlement resolution to pass the United Nations Security Council last week was meant as a parting shot by US President Barack Obama after almost eight years of strained relations between Washington and Jerusalem.
Dan Shapiro told Israel’s Channel 10 news that the timing of the move, which was met by Israeli allegations of the US working behind Israel’s back, was “determined by other nations,” and was not the result of the lame duck administration’s frustrations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.
“From my personal experience with Barack Obama, as a person, as a man, he doesn’t deal in revenge. It’s not how he makes decisions,” Shapiro said in the Hebrew-language interview broadcast Thursday night.
Some commentators and analysts have seen the US decision to withhold its Security Council veto as the culmination of seven years of bad blood between Obama and Netanyahu, which saw relations dip amid disputes over peace efforts and the Iran nuclear deal.
But Shapiro said the change in tact, including US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech Wednesday criticizing settlement building and laying out parameters for a possible peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, was decided on over the summer, when the administration saw it would not be successful in advancing bilateral negotiations with the time left in office.
Asked about who was to blame for the frayed relationship, Shapiro demurred, admitting only that there had been disagreements.
“I might answer differently at a later time,” he said. “If I write a book you can read it.”
Shapiro, who took up the post in 2011, is due to be replaced next month by David Friedman, seen as friendly to Netanyahu and supportive of the settlement enterprise. He has reportedly asked to remain in Israel as a private citizen so his daughter can finish high school.
The ambassador also dismissed Israeli claims that it had “ironclad information” of Washington working with the Palestinians to draft the text of the resolution, which was originally proposed by Egypt before being taken up by four other member states, saying there was no such proof.
“This is an Egyptian article on a Palestinian transcript on a meeting that didn’t happen. It’s not proof of anything,” he said. “We didn’t decide how to vote until we saw the final text… This is further proof that we didn’t prepare this in advance.”
Shapiro said Netanyahu had brought up the Israeli allegations, but refused to show the intelligence, during a dressing down he received from the prime minister following the vote, offering a glimpse of the rare meeting that highlighted the depth of the crisis in relations between the two allies.
“We understand why it’s hurtful for Israelis to hear difficult things,” Shapiro said.
UN Resolution 2334, which passed on December 23, says 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 captured after the 1967 Six Day War.
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 fears will lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts, and that an Israeli official warned would provide “a tailwind for terror.”
The resolution passed 14-0, with the US abstaining. An American “no” vote would have sunk the measure.
On Wednesday, US National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the US would veto any upcoming vote on Israel.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.