Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Israel would expect that the administration of President Barack Obama will not carry out a shift in policy and will not promote or support a United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue during the period following the U.S. presidential election until Obama leaves office, Haaretz has learned. Netanyahu made the comments in a telephone conversation with Kerry on Saturday night. The election is to be held on November 8 while Obama's term ends on January 20.
- Will Obama make Netanyahu pay for historic aid deal with last-gasp push for peace?
- Israel fears Clinton administration's Mideast peace policy, leaked emails show
- Kerry: Israel and Palestinians headed for binational state, world must act or shut up
- Netanyahu does his usual shtick before UN audience with zero expectations
A senior Israeli official who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter said that, in the call, Netanyahu presented Kerry with Israel's position on the matter and repeated the points that he, Netanyahu, had presented publicly about two weeks ago in a speech to the UN General Assembly.
Haaretz has learned that in the portion of the call devoted to possible steps at the UN Security Council, for the most part Kerry listened, but ultimately told the prime minister that the U.S. administration has still not made any decision on the issue.
In his UN address, Netanyahu noted that one of the mainstays of Israel's relations with the United States is America's steadfast support for Israel at the United Nations. "I appreciate President Obama's commitment to that longstanding U.S. policy," Netanyahu said at the time. "In fact, the only time that the United States cast a UN Security Council veto during the Obama presidency was against an anti-Israel resolution in 2011. As President Obama rightly declared at this podium, peace will not come from statements and resolutions at the United Nations."
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office and at the Foreign Ministry are concerned that, following the American presidential elections but prior to the end of his term in the White House, Obama could attempt to promote steps to enshrine his presidential legacy on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The assessment in Jerusalem is that such a process could take the form of a speech in which the U.S. president would spell out his vision for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, support for a Security Council resolution regarding West Bank Jewish settlements or even the promotion of a Security Council resolution that would define the principles for a solution to the core issues of the conflict, such as the borders of a Palestinian state or the future of Jerusalem.
Despite concerns over steps Obama could take at the United Nations, Netanyahu preferred not to raise the subject at the meeting that he had with Obama in New York two weeks ago. The Israeli prime minister did, however, raise the subject several days later at a meeting with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
In a statement released after the meeting with Netanyahu, Clinton said that she had expressed her opposition to the prime minister to any unilateral steps against Israel at the United Nations. Staff at the Prime Minister's Office believe that if Clinton is elected president, she could serve as a restraining influence regarding any such steps on Obama's part before he leaves office on January 20.
The highly harsh American response last week to reports of the advancement of construction plans in the area of the Shiloh settlement for residents slated for evacuation from the illegal outpost of Amona increased concern at the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry over steps Obama could take at the United Nations. Highly pessimistic scenarios were voiced last week on the matter at a meeting of Foreign Ministry officials.
A senior ministry official noted that among the comments voiced was one stating that the harsh statements issued by the State Department and the White House against construction plans to accommodate residents relocated from Amona are an indication of a very negative attitude in the U.S. administration regarding Israeli policy in the territories. This, it was added, was liable to lead the United States to take steps at the UN Security Council after the November 8 election.
In the course of his telephone conversation with Kerry, Netanyahu sought to cool tempers with the Obama administration regarding Amona. Netanyahu told Kerry that the advancement of construction plans don't constitute the establishment of a new settlement, as the administration is claiming and instead is designed to provide approval for substitute housing for Amona's residents in the event that no other solution for them is found. At this stage, officials in the U.S. administration are not accepting Netanyahu's explanations and are insisting that from their standpoint, the construction plan that has been advanced is not the establishment of a new settlement, which would constitute a violation of prior commitments that Netanyahu gave to Obama in 2009.
On Friday, the UN Security Council will meet in special session to consider Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. No resolutions will be voted on at the session, but it is expected to be open to the media and to become a display of international condemnation of the Israeli government's policies in the territories.
About two weeks ago in his speech to the UN General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians would renew their efforts to pass a Security Council resolution condemning the settlements and was deem them illegal.
Last week Arab ambassadors at the United Nations held a meeting considering the possible provisions of such a resolution. Nevertheless, at this stage, there is still no draft acceptable to all of the Arab countries.
Senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats have expressed the view that the Palestinians do not intend to seriously promote a Security Council resolution on the settlements until after the November 8 elections in the United States. The intensive Palestinian efforts at the Security Council on the settlements, they say, is designed to prepare the ground for a resolution on the subject after the U.S. elections.