WASHINGTON - The United States abstained from voting Friday at the U.N. Security Council on a resolution calling for Israel to stop its “settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory.” The abstention opened the way for the other 14 members of the council to unanimously pass the resolution to a round of applause in the chamber.
Reaction to the measure was swift and mixed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. and will not abide by its terms.” He added, “The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it colluded with it behind the scenes.”
“Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump,” the Israeli leader said, “and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”
Trump promised changes at the U.N. once he takes office and tweeted “things will be different after Jan. 20th,” the date he is sworn in as president.
Kerry, Feinstein defend US
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement 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,” that would recognize both a Jewish state and a Palestinian state.
U.S. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is Jewish, said in a statement that stopping the growing settlements on the West Bank and in Jerusalem is an “absolute necessity” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. She said, “I believe the expansion of settlements has but one goal: to undermine the viability of a two-state solution.”
The U.N. vote sent a “clear and unanimous message” to Netanyahu, said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that “your policies will not achieve peace and security for Israel or the region.”
Israeli allies disappointed
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., could barely believe the U.S. vote at the Security Council.
“It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution,” he said. “Neither the Security Council nor UNESCO can sever the ties between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of The Anti-Defamation League condemned the resolution: “This resolution will do little to renew peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. It will only encourage further Palestinian intransigence vis-a-vis direct negotiations with Israel in favor of unilateral, one-sided initiatives.”
He said the ADL was “incredibly disappointed” the U.S. “chose not to exercise its veto power and stop this resolution at the Security Council.”
Greenblatt also said it is “deeply troubling that this biased resolution appears to be the final word” of the Obama administration on this issue.
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said the Obama administration’s “decision for the first time in eight years, not to block an anti-Israel measure at the U.N. Security Council is profoundly disturbing.”
“The chief obstacle to achieving peace is, and long has been, the steadfast refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel’s legitimacy and negotiate in earnest a comprehensive agreement,” Harris added.
Rights groups welcome resolution
However, Sherine Tadros, head of Amnesty International’s U.N. Office in New York said the Security Council “should go further and demand that the state of Israel not only fulfill its legal obligation to halt settlement-building, but also dismantle its settlements and relocate its settlers outside Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is the only way to a just and durable peace.”
Louis Charbonnearu, the U.N. director at Human Rights Watch said, “The U.S. abstention is a welcome shift away from past practice of using its Security Council veto to shield Israel from criticism despite longstanding U.S. policy opposing settlements. Indications that President-elect Trump may change U.S. policy on settlements re-inforces the need for a steadfast Security Council position.”
Four countries — New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela — requested Friday’s vote at the U.N. After the vote, Israel recalled its ambassadors to Senegal and New Zealand. It does not have diplomatic relations with Venezuela or Malaysia.
Israel’s decision to recall its ambassadors should “not come as a surprise to anyone,” said New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully. “We have been very open about our view that the “Security Council should be doing more to support the Middle East peace process, and the position we adopted today is totally in line with our long established policy on the Palestinian question.”