Humbled over U.N. vote, Netanyahu looks to Trump
Jerusalem — The Israeli government’s furious reaction to the U.N. Security Council’s adoption of a resolution opposing Jewish settlements in occupied territory underscores its fundamental and bitter dispute with the global community about the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists there is nothing wrong with his controversial policy of building Jewish towns in occupied areas that the Palestinians, with overwhelming world support, claim for their state. But Friday’s U.N. rebuke was a stark reminder that the rest of the world considers it a crime. The embattled leader is now placing his hopes in the incoming administration of Donald Trump, which is shaping up as the first major player to embrace Israel’s nationalist right and its West Bank settlements.
In a series of statements, Netanyahu has criticized the Obama administration for letting Resolution 2334 pass Friday by abstaining, using unprecedented language that has turned a policy disagreement into a vendetta.
“From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama Administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday.
In turning his anger toward Israel’s closest and most important ally, Netanyahu has underplayed the embarrassment that all 14 other nations on the Security Council voted in favor of the measure. Those votes came from countries that Netanyahu loves to boast of cultivating relations with, including Russia and China and nations across the developing world.
“This is the same prime minister who told us dozens of states are on board with us,” former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on TV Saturday.
The resolution marked a sharp international rebuke of Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as parts of a future independent state. Some 600,000 Israelis now live in the two areas, complicating any partition of the land between Israel and a future Palestine.
Netanyahu routinely dismisses international criticism of the settlements, saying that the dispute with the Palestinians goes back to long before the 1967 war.
He also notes that when Israel dismantled its Gaza settlements in 2005, Hamas militants responded by firing rockets and subsequently seizing control of the territory from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
With Friday’s resolution, however, the world sent a strong message that it rejects these arguments. The resolution said the settlements have “no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation” of international law. It also urged all states to distinguish between Israel and “the territories occupied since 1967.”
In the short term, the resolution is largely symbolic. It did not include talk of sanctions or any other punitive measures against Israel.
On Jan. 15, days before Obama leaves office, France is expected to host a Mideast conference where dozens of countries may endorse an international framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu opposes such activity, saying it undermines the negotiating process.
The recent diplomatic defeat would be much more damaging if not for a potential remaining and rather major ace in Netanyahu’s hand: the incoming Trump Administration.
In a departure from past policy of incumbent presidents waiting on the sidelines, Trump tried to scuttle the resolution and called for a U.S. veto. After the vote, Trump vowed “things will be different after Jan. 20th.”
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