UNITED NATIONS – On Friday, as Israelis marked the Sabbath here in the Jewish state, US President Obama stuck it to Israel, perhaps one final time.
The Obama administration’s abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a halt to Israeli construction in the West Bank, thereby allowing the measure to pass.
It was the first resolution on the conflict approved during President Barack Obama’s nearly eight years in office and shone a spotlight on his icy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The U.S. decision to abstain on the 14-0 vote followed months of intensely secret deliberations in Washington, a spate of fresh Israeli settlement announcements that sparked exasperation and anger from American officials, and recent attempts by Israel’s government to have parliament legalize thousands of homes built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The vote on settlements sparked behind-the-scenes discussion in the usually divided Security Council on what else might be achieved on the Israeli-Palestinian issue while Obama is still in the White House.
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon warned the council after the vote that the resolution would not spur peace efforts.
“By voting ‘yes’ in favor of this resolution, you have in fact voted ‘no,'” Danon said. “You voted ‘no’ to negotiations. You voted ‘no’ to progress, and a chance for better lives for Israelis and Palestinians. And you voted ‘no’ to the possibility of peace.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement “Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. and will not abide by its terms.”
Netanyahu blamed Obama for failing to “protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N.” and even colluding with its detractors. He said, “Israel looks forward to working with President-elect Trump and with all our friends in Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”
Meanwhile, Saeb Erekat a chief Palestinian negotiator hailed the result as a “victory for the justice of the Palestinian cause.” He said Trump’s choice was now between “international legitimacy” or siding with “settlers and extremists.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, urged the Security Council to “stand firm by this decision” and “not be cowed by negative threats or spin.”
By Geoff Thomas
Edith M. Lederer, Bradley Klapper, Josef Federman