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Israel bites the hands that feed it

Israel summoned to Jerusalem on Sunday, Christmas Day, ambassadors representing countries that voted in favor of a U.N. Security Council resolution that harshly criticizes Israeli settlement activity, calling them an obstacle to peace.

December 25

0:00
2016

London , United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland - 25 Dec 2016 - Washington Post

In a bizarre and arrogant move that defies belief, Israel summoned to Jerusalem on Sunday, Christmas Day, ambassadors representing countries that voted in favor of a U.N. Security Council resolution that harshly criticizes Israeli settlement activity, calling them an obstacle to peace.

Ambassadors of four of the five permanent Security Council members — the United Kingdom, China, France, Russia — as well as nonpermanent members with diplomatic relations with Israel — Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Uruguay, Ukraine and Spain — were issued a sharp reprimand by Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.

The resolution, which passed Friday, declares that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have “no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation under international law.” It also called the settlements a major obstacle to achieving the two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians.

Fourteen of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution. The United States, breaking with a long-standing policy of preventing resolutions dealing with Israel, did not use its veto powers to stop the resolution’s passage, abstaining from the vote instead.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, was not summoned to Jerusalem because the United States did not vote in favor of the resolution, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

The summons were ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the country’s foreign minister, as part of a series of diplomatic measures announced since the resolution was adopted.

On Friday, Netanyahu recalled Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, canceled scheduled trips to Israel by the Senegalese foreign minister and Ukraine’s prime minister. He also said that Israeli aid to Senegal would be canceled and that contributions Israel makes to five U.N. agencies would be halted.

Israel has been feeling the waning support worldwide since March 2016, when Vice President Joe Biden criticizes Israeli plans to build new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem against a backdrop of reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declined to meet with President Barack Obama due to the U.S. election — even while Washington and Tel Aviv are negotiating new U.S. military aid to Israel. This latest flurry of activity comes in the wake of a new Pew Research Center survey highlighting the differences between American Jews and Israeli Jews and between Israeli Jews and Arabs within Israel on a range of contentious issues surrounding the Middle East peace process.

The United States and Israel are home to an estimated 80 percent of the world’s Jews. But their faith does not mean they share a common perspective on the peace process. On the issue of the continued building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the prevailing view among Israeli Jews is that settlements help the security of Israel. By contrast, American Jews are more likely to say the settlements hurt Israel’s own security. And the most common view among Israeli Jews is that the United States is not supportive enough of Israel, while the most common opinion among American Jews is that the level of U.S. support for Israel is about right.

For a clue, look to Netanyahu’s press conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Jerusalem when Iran was the subject. It was confrontational and decidedly undiplomatic. Netanyahu looked like a chided child when he was reminded of how close the British-Israeli security relationship is, how the British government has pledged to counter anti-Semitism and BDS, how trade and investment in Israel are up and scientific and technological cooperation is closer than ever. Hammond didn’t much care for the lecture he’d just received, how he’d been talked down to, especially given that the British government stood by Israel during lthe war in Gaza.

Judging by Hammond’s tone and posture, that press conference was in fact a manifestation of Europe’s problem not with Israel but with Netanyahu himself. Simply put, they’ve had it up to here with a man who is famed for inaction, yet berates foreign leaders on the need to do something about Iran — a man who has no compelling vision for his own country’s issues, yet cries daily, “This is a bad deal,” without really offering a viable alternative. Europe has stopped listening to Netanyahu about Iran.

The poor relationship between Netanyahu and Europe’s leaders comes back to the Palestinian question. Whether you believe it’s because of a genuine moral commitment or demographics, the fact remains that Palestinian statelessness matters more to the politics of Europe than to the United States. European leaders, rightly or wrongly, see not Mahmoud Abbas but Netanyahu as the reason for the lack of a peace agreement.

Seen this way, the current state of affairs is a failure of Netanyahu’s foreign policy more broadly. Under him, Israeli foreign policy was outsourced for six years to a racist and ultra-nationalist, Avigdor Lieberman, who never knew how to communicate with Europe and never cared to learn. Right now, Israel doesn’t even have a Foreign Minister. The Deputy Foreign Ministry doesn’t believe in Palestinian statehood. The ministry itself has been allowed to wither into a husk. What passes for foreign policy these days is in fact a series of lectures and verbal attacks on foreign governments. So it was not surprising to see the beligerence of the Israeli Prime minister as he talked down the very same leaders that israel depends on for its existance.

In a cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu told his ministers that he shared their feelings of anger and frustration at the U.N. adopting a resolution hostile to Israel. And he laid blame for the resolution squarely on the shoulders of President Obama.

“I have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it and coordinated the wording,” Netanyahu said. He said the resolution contradicted a U.S. policy and a commitment made by Obama in 2011 not to try to impose the terms of a final status agreement on Israel.

“Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments had disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue,” he said. “As I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don’t take friends to the Security Council.”

Netanyahu’s anger was matched by more militant voices in his right-wing government. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, held a news conference at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, saying the city has been the eternal capital of Jews for 3,000 years. He said that in response to the resolution, Israel should evaluate its approach to the 1994 Oslo Accords, which sets out the plan of two states, one of Israelis and one for Palestinians. He said that Israel should instead impose sovereignty on land it captured after the 1967 war. He also urged the government to ramp up construction in Israeli settlements, built on land the Palestinians hope to use for a state.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beitenu faction, announced Sunday that he was suspending all non-security-related communication with the Palestinian Authority in wake of the U.N. vote.

“The behavior of the prime minister and other ministers reflects the hysteria in Israel every time there is something that contradicts this government’s policy,” said Dan Miodownik, a professor of political science and international relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Miodownik said that what is more interesting is what was not said.

“Israel has not recalled its ambassadors in Russian and China and even though Israel has been growing ties with Putin, it is blaming the U.S. for abstaining, and has no words about Russia or China who supported the resolution,” he said.

Miodownik said that Netanyahu’s actions were, for the most part, hollow with the main goal of trying to placate Israel’s right wing, which advocates for the Israeli settlement enterprise. About 400,000 Jewish settlers live on 125 settlements and 100 outposts in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Over the past six months, Israel has announced plans to add hundreds of units to existing settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, each time drawing rebuke from the White House.

More recently, right-wing voices in Netanyahu’s government have been pushing legislation to legalize settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land, a step also frowned upon by the Obama administration. The U.S. abstention Friday was a rare rebuke to Israel, and it reflected mounting frustration in the Obama administration over settlement growth that the United States, as well as many others in the international community, considers an obstacle to peace.

With Obama’s time in office due to end in under a month, his decision not to veto was a last-minute symbolic statement of that displeasure and a sense of exasperation that the time has come for two states to be carved out of the contested land.

The resolution had initially been brought Thursday by the Egyptians but was withdrawn after President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi spoke with President-elect Donald Trump, who had been approached by worried Israeli officials. New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal stepped in and sponsored their own settlements resolution instead.

In a strongly worded statement Friday, Netanyahu said that Obama had “not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it has colluded with it behind the scenes.”

He also stated clearly that he looked forward to working with Trump “to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”

“Netanyahu’s self-righteousness that this resolution is going to be changed, or reversed by Trump is totally unfounded, if he really thinks it can then he is either panicking or plainly misleading,” said Alon Pinkas, a former diplomat and adviser to Israeli prime ministers.

Pinkas said the resolution was unlikely to have any immediate consequences but that it would a precedent on Israel and its settlements.

Israel should beware and not test the patience of the Internaitonal community any longer. Although they will not admit it, most leaders throughout the world understand very well that it is Israel that does not wish to see a Palestinian State, without which there will never be true peace in the region and terrorism is likely to continue to rear its ugly head around the world. Israel has had a great run, has extracted trillions of dollars of aid from the USA and other countries, has been protected countless times in the United Nations and given the latest and most lethal weapons to protect itself; not to mention the ability to entertain a nuclear weapons program without international oversight or scrutiny. Like a troublesome teenager, it is time for the parents to remind their child not to be big headed, not to forget who protects them and should put them rightly in their place. 

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