Israel Doubles Down on Criticism of Obama Administration: ‘Ben Rhodes is an Expert at Fiction’

By Patrick Goodenough | December 26, 2016 | 7:23pm EST
Deputy national security advisor for strategic communications Ben Rhodes, far right. Others in the photo include President Obama, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP Photo, File)

( – Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. on Monday contemptuously dismissed White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’ denials that the Obama administration played a key behind-the-scenes role in getting a resolution condemning Israel through the U.N. Security Council, describing him as an “expert at fiction.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government says it has “iron-clad” information indicating that the Obama administration had a role in the crafting and passage of the resolution that passed Friday in the absence of a U.S. veto.

Ambassador Ron Dermer told MSNBC the Israeli government had proof that it would share that evidence with the incoming Trump administration – which “can decide whether they want to share that with the American people.”

“We’re obviously not going to share it with this [Obama] administration because this administration is behind it,” he charged.

Asked about Rhodes’ denial of an administration role, Dermer replied, “Ben Rhodes is an expert at fiction."

“Let’s just wait until all the evidence is presented to the new administration and they will decide,” he said.

And then you can invite me back on your show and you can see whether I’m telling you the truth,” he added. “When the prime minister of Israel makes such an allegation, that is backed up by 100 percent evidence. You can take that to the bank.”

(Dermer’s barb directed at Rhodes may allude both to his educational background – he has a master’s degree in fiction writing from New York University – and to last summer’s controversy surrounding his reported boasting at having “created an echo chamber” of experts and journalists to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the U.S. people and lawmakers.)

Dermer said criticism of the incoming administration taking a stance on the matter was a distraction; the real issue was an outgoing administration shifting policy towards Israel so fundamentally in its waning days, a step he called “an attempt to handcuff” the Trump administration.

Resolution 2334 states that areas of land disputed between Israel and the Palestinians – including the holiest site in Judaism – is “Palestinian territory” and declares Israeli presence there to be “a flagrant violation under international law.”

The administration’s decision to abstain rather than veto the measure has drawn strong criticism from U.S. lawmakers from both parties. It was welcomed by Palestinian factions, including U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations, the bloc of Islamic states, and supporters of Palestinian statehood around the world.

Administration officials have denied having a role in the lead-up to the vote, saying President Obama only made the final decision to abstain once the administration knew what the wording was on Friday – and because that wording reflected its position on Israeli settlements in areas claimed by the Palestinians.

“The notion that we were somehow involved in drafting this is just not true,” Rhodes said during a teleconference briefing after the vote.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 television on Monday, Rhodes said, “Let’s be clear. The U.S. did not draft this resolution. It was put forward by Egypt.”

The gist of the allegations being made are not that the U.S. administration drafted the resolution, but that it encouraged and facilitated it, working behind the scenes to let other council members know what wording would avoid a veto.

“We have ironclad information, frankly, that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it,” Netanyahu spokesman David Keyes told CNN, citing information from Arab and other countries.

“The old story is the story of the U.N. ganging up on Israel,” Dermer said. “What’s new is that the American administration did not oppose this ganging up. But what is really outrageous is they were, behind the scenes, pushing this resolution, which is a hostile resolution to Israel.”

Egypt initially put forward the resolution, but after President-elect Donald Trump and Netanyahu voiced strong opposition it abruptly dropped its call for a vote on Thursday.

Four other temporary members of the Security Council – New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal – then stepped in and pushed for a vote on Friday, which passed 14-0.

In his MSNBC interview, Dermer said Trump is correct in saying the resolution will make it harder to advance peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians.

That’s because, Dermer said, the resolution formally declares that all the territory under dispute – “the only card that Israel has in negotiations” – to be Palestinian territory.

Under the Oslo accords that are meant to be the foundation of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, final borders and areas in dispute between the two parties are among the “final status” issues, to be negotiated by the two parties.

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