Dec. 23, 2016
- UN Postpones Sensitive Vote on Israel Settlements – Rory Jones and Farnaz Fassihi
The UN Security Council postponed a vote Thursday on a resolution criticizing Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. After a draft of the resolution was circulated by Egyptian diplomats on Wednesday, Israel and President-elect Trump urged the Obama administration to veto it. The U.S. vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, but in recent months has considered supporting a resolution, according to White House officials.
“As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations,” Trump said in a statement. “This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.” (Wall Street Journal)
- See also Israel Lobbied Trump to Help Derail UN Resolution – Rory Jones and Farnaz Fassihi
Israeli government officials requested that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump intervene in deliberations at the UN focused on passing a new resolution on the Arab-Israel conflict. Top Israeli officials believed the Obama administration wasn’t going to block a UN resolution that seeks to define Israeli construction in disputed territories as “illegal.” Trump on Thursday also held a phone conversation with Egypt’s President al-Sisi, whose government had drafted the UN resolution. Egypt then called for a delay on the vote. (Wall Street Journal)
- See also Sisi Has a Set of Considerations Different from Obama – Herb Keinon
While it was not clear whether Trump’s tweet on the pending Egyptian UN resolution would matter at all to Obama, it does matter to President Abdel al-Sisi, who will have to work with Trump for the next four years. In interviews after meeting both Trump and Clinton in September before the election, Sisi made clear he supported Trump. Sisi was the first international leader to call and congratulate the President-elect after his victory, and said he hoped it would breathe new life into the Egyptian-American relationship.
Sisi sees the possibility of turning a new page with Washington, and it is clear that following Trump’s statement he realized that the UN resolution would not be the best way to begin afresh. (Jerusalem Post)
- U.S. Intended to Allow Passage of UN Resolution Critical of Israel – Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton
The U.S. intended to allow the UN Security Council to approve a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, two Western officials said on Thursday, a major reversal of U.S. practice. They said President Obama had intended to abstain on the vote. Israel believes the Obama administration had long planned the council vote in coordination with the Palestinians, a senior Israeli official said. “It was a violation of a core commitment to protect Israel at the UN,” the official said. Israel remained concerned the resolution could still go ahead with another sponsoring country. (Reuters)
- See also White House Planned Parting Shot at Israel – Michael Wilner
Israeli officials believed the Obama administration had planned its abstention for some time. The goal of the White House, according to the Israeli government’s assessment, was to let off a parting shot at a prime minister with whom it has fought for years and to bind the incoming administration with new international language. (Jerusalem Post)
- Israelis Called Trump Only After Failing to Persuade Obama on UN Veto – Elise Labott
A senior Israeli official told CNN that his country approached Trump after it had failed to persuade the Obama administration to veto the planned UN Security Council resolution. The official said that Israel “implored the White House not to go ahead and told them that if they did, we would have no choice but to reach out to President-elect Trump. We did reach out to the President-elect and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do.”
“It’s unprecedented that a President-elect would pronounce on a matter of U.S. policy before he became president,” said Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Wilson Center. An Israeli official argued, “What is unprecedented is to undermine an incoming administration in this way.” Israeli officials say they believe that Trump will seek to make good on his pledge to negotiate what he has called the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. “This action at the UN would make it harder for him to do that.”
Secretary of State John Kerry scrapped plans to deliver a speech before the vote laying out the U.S. vision for peace in the region. Kerry spoke with Netanyahu and with Egypt’s foreign minister on Thursday, the White House said. (CNN)
- President-Elect Stands Up for Israel – Editorial
Egypt was all set to put to a UN Security Council vote on Thursday a destructive, one-sided measure slamming Israel – and withdrew only after Donald Trump railed against it on social media. So broad was the language of the resolution that it would have included even the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. All of it would be off limits to Israelis under international law. Left hanging by America, supposedly Israel’s closest ally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a call for help.
It never should have come to this. If the resolution had passed without U.S. objection, it would have falsely branded Israel as violating international law. (New York Daily News)
- Was U.S. Policy on Israel and the UN Changing? – Dore Gold
Was the U.S. about to sharply break with its past policy on the use of the UN for dealing with Israeli-Palestinian differences on the issue of settlements? Back in 2011, Ambassador Susan Rice provided an “explanation of vote” as to why she vetoed a similar resolution on settlements at the time. She made three points: 1) a resolution would harden the positions of both sides, 2) it would also encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations, and 3) it would establish a pattern by which every time the parties reached an impasse, they would return to the UN Security Council. She was right. What she was essentially saying was that the UN and meaningful negotiations are a bad mix – like oil and water.
Israel has multiple reasons to oppose the latest draft resolution. While Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel, Israelis have not lost hope that someday there will eventually be a negotiated settlement between the two sides that leads to a true compromise. But that requires firm international support for such an outcome.
President Obama correctly concluded in September 2011 that “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations.” If it becomes the conventional wisdom that in 2016 the U.S. gave up on a future negotiation and preferred instead that the UN take the lead on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, then the peoples of the region will pay a price for years to come. The writer, former director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Anti-Israel Security Council Resolution Will Not Help Peace – Eugene Kontorovich
For years, there has been mounting speculation, fueled by the administration itself, that President Obama would use his lame-duck period in office for a major anti-Israel action. Obama’s goal with such a resolution would be to create diplomatic facts on the ground to box in President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy. Such a resolution would not cement any positive legacy for Obama. To the contrary, it would vastly magnify the actual obstacles to resolving the Palestinian issue.
A Security Council resolution will reinforce all the dynamics that have made a solution more remote. The resolution would teach the Palestinians that appealing to the international community will always give them a better offer than negotiations with Israel, since the international community asks nothing of the Palestinians in return. A Security Council resolution would only entrench Palestinian maximalism and refusal to negotiate. This is exactly what the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said when vetoing a similar resolution in 2011. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. (Washington Post)
(Click on the title of any article to see the whole article…Ed.)