Stepping Up Diplomatic Response, Netanyahu Orders to Reduce Ties With Countries That Backed UN Resolution

Prime minister to cease efforts to coordinate meetings with British, Chinese counterparts; asks ministers to minimize travels to 12 countries.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 2016.Credit: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Foreign Ministry on Sunday to reduce almost all diplomatic work relations with 12 of the countries that voted in favor of the UN Security Council resolution on settlements and which have diplomatic ties with Israel, a senior Israeli official said.

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Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu summoned the American ambassador to Israel to clarify matters over the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements, senior officials at the Prime Minister's Office confirmed. The meeting is slated to take place Sunday night.

As part of the move to reduce ties, the official said, Israeli ministers would be asked to keep travels to those 12 countries to a minimum, and foreign ministers from those countries won't be received on visits to Israel. ""travel less in the upcoming period to countries that voted against us," Netanyahu told ministers during a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Moreover, Netanyahu will cease efforts to coordinate meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May and the Chinese prime minister at the World Economic Forum in Davos. 

The Foreign Ministry was instructed to suspend its work relations with the 12 countries' embassies in Israel, and their ambassadors will not be received at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. The official added that the instruction will take effect until further notice. It will not apply to Israel's ambassadors to those countries, so that they will be able to maintain contact with the local governments where they are stationed.

Read more on the Security Council resolution:  It's the settlements, stupid: UN failure is entirely Netanyahu's / Analysis Obama, where have you been for 8 wasted years? / Analysis | Why the Palestinians are jubilant and Israel is spooked / Analysis | Security Council punch knocks Netanyahu down from hubris to humiliation.

The prime minister, who also serves as foreign ministers, also summoned the envoys of other UN Security Council member states to reprimand them over the resolution.

The summoning of the American ambassador is considered a most unusual step. Even more unusual is the fact that unlike the other envoys who were summoned on Sunday to the Foreign Ministry, Netanyahu will conduct the conversation himself at his office.

Friday's vote was able to pass the 15-member council because the United States decided not to wield its veto power as it had on many times before. The resolution passed with 14 members voting in favor of the resolution, while the U.S. abstained from the vote.

The resolution's two main clauses state that the settlements have "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law," and call on the nations of the world "to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967." 

Netanyahu warned Likud ministers on Sunday that additional international measures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were possible before U.S. President Barack Obama steps down on January 20. At the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he shares the ministers' anger and frustration over the vote, which he called "hostile and unbalanced." 

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