Israel is continuing its sharp rebuke of the United States over its decision not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a halt to Israeli settlement-building.
Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to Washington, accused the Obama administration of “ganging up” against his country in last week's vote.
“What is outrageous is that the United States was actually behind that gang-up. I think it was a very sad day, really a shameful chapter,” the Israeli diplomat told CNN on Monday.
Dermer said his government has “clear evidence” of the U.S. move and is willing to share it with the incoming administration of Donald Trump. “And if they want to share it with the U.S. people they're welcome to do it,” he said.
'Cease all settlement activities'
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution demanding that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem.”
The United States, which has a veto in the Security Council, refrained from casting its vote, enabling the adoption of the measure, the first resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.
An angry Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro on Sunday to talk about the U.S. abstention. Neither the State Department nor Netanyahu's office commented on Sunday's meeting.
As part of the diplomatic backlash, Netanyahu also backed out of a scheduled meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May. The meeting was to take place on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in mid-January.
The Israeli foreign ministry summoned ambassadors from the 14 nations that voted for the resolution Friday, but reports say several of the diplomats did not answer the call.
'Reckless and destructive'
Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday that the resolution was “reckless and destructive.” He pointed out that the U.S. and Israel have always agreed that the Security Council is no place to resolve the settlement issue.
He called the U.S. abstention instead of a veto “shameful.”
Before lighting a Hanukkah candle Sunday in front of the Western Wall in East Jerusalem, Netanyahu said countries that voted for the resolution and then sent Hanukkah greetings to Israel do not understand the meaning of the Jewish festival.
“The Jewish people observe the holiday of Hanukkah in order to remember the victory of the Hasmoneans in a revolt against the Greeks, culminating with the miracle of the oil and the rededication of the Temple,” Netanyahu wrote on Facebook. “How is it possible to offer our best wishes for Hanukkah and at the same time deny our deep connection to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and other places in our land?”
The Palestinians have long argued that Jewish settlements in areas they want as part of a future state are illegal and a major impediment to a final peace settlement.
Israel insists Jews have a biblical right to those lands seized in the 1967 war. It says Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist is the major roadblock to peace.
A warning offered
Netanyahu warned his Cabinet on Sunday that Friday's U.N. vote might be an attempt by President Barack Obama to reinforce U.S. Mideast policy before he leaves office in less than a month.
This would include another possible resolution and a Mideast peace conference scheduled for January 15 in Paris in which Israel says Secretary of State John Kerry will spell out the U.S. vision for a two-state solution.
Israeli settlement expansion has created a chilly relationship between Netanyahu and Obama.
Netanyahu said Sunday he has talked with “our friends in the United States, Republicans and Democrats alike,” who “understand how reckless and destructive this U.N. resolution was.”
He said he is looking forward to working with those friends and “the new administration when it takes office next month.” Trump will be sworn on January 20.
Trump questions value of U.N.
Monday, Trump questioned the U.N.’s effectiveness, saying it's just a club for people to “have a good time.”
The president-elect wrote on Twitter that the U.N. has “such great potential,” but it has become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”
On Friday, Trump warned, “As to the U.N., things will be different after January 20th.”
The decision by the Obama administration to abstain from Friday's U.N. vote brushed aside Trump's demands that the U.S. exercise its veto and provided a climax to years of icy relations with Israel's leadership.
The White House on Friday defended its decision.
“We could not in good conscience veto a resolution,” the usual U.S. practice on Security Council votes targeting Israel, the White House deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told reporters.
Israel ignores U.S. concerns
Rhodes said that despite the United States repeatedly standing up for Israel, its government had ignored repeated concerns about the growth of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. He noted that there are now 90,000 settlers living east of the barrier that Israel had itself created.
“We’ve tried everything ... and the one consistent outcome was that it didn’t work,” Rhodes said.
After the Security Council vote, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said Israel's policy stance — expanding settlements while also nominally pursuing a two-state solution of recognizing both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state — is based on “irreconcilable” positions.
“None of us can give up on a two-state solution,” Power said.
Kerry also weighed in via a statement, saying the resolution “rightly condemns violence and incitement and settlement activity and calls on both sides to take constructive steps to reverse current trends and advance the prospects for a two-state solution.”