(CNSNews.com) – Weeks before President Trump took office, he and his transition team tried energetically to thwart a major U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel, according to the partially-redacted Mueller report released on Thursday.
Those efforts were a foreshadowing of what would became a signature policy of the Trump administration’s dealings with the U.N., where strong defense of Israel has been a high priority.
The Trump team’s bid was ultimately unsuccessful, and the resolution passed after the Obama administration controversially chose to abstain rather than veto it.
Resolution 2334 was particularly significant because it described areas disputed between Israelis and Palestinians – including the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and the location of the holiest site in Judaism – as “occupied Palestinian territory.”
Citing testimony from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the Mueller report outlines attempts by the transition team to stymie the draft resolution, including multiple calls to foreign government officials, a phone conversation between Trump and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and outreach by Flynn to Russia via then-Russian Ambassador to Washington Sergei Kislyak.
(The brief portion of the report dealing with the Israel resolution falls within a broader section examining post-election contacts between the Trump team and Russian officials, including those between Flynn and Kislyak. Flynn was later to resign as NSA after the White House determined he had misled Vice-President Mike Pence about having discussed sanctions with Kislyak before the inauguration.)
Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak about the U.N. resolution were known previously – they came up in the count that he faced, and pleaded guilty to, of lying to the FBI – as was the fact that Trump and Sisi spoke by phone, which Egyptian officials confirmed at the time.
What was not known publicly before now was the scale of the effort to counter the resolution, according to the report, with “multiple members” of the team reaching out to foreign governments.
“According to Flynn, the Transition Team regarded the vote as a significant issue and wanted to support Israel by opposing the resolution,” the report says.
“On December 22, 2016, multiple members of the Transition Team, as well as President-Elect Trump, communicated with foreign government officials to determine their views on the resolution and to rally support to delay the vote or defeat the resolution.”
“[Jared] Kushner led the effort for the Transition Team; Flynn was responsible for the Russian government. Minutes after an early morning phone call with Kushner on December 22, Flynn called Kislyak. According to Flynn, he informed Kislyak about the vote and the Transition Team’s opposition to the resolution, and requested that Russia vote against or delay the resolution,” it says.
“Later that day, President-Elect Trump spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about the vote.”
Egypt had been the draft resolution’s original sponsor, and although the report does not directly link the two, following Trump’s call to Sisi Egypt abruptly postponed a vote.
Trump had also publicly made his opposition clear at the time, arguing that the U.S. should veto the resolution which he said “puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”
After Egypt backed away, four other temporary members of the Security Council – New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal – stepped in and pushed for a vote.
Once again the transition team went into action, the report recounts.
“Throughout the day, members of the Transition Team continued to talk with foreign leaders about the resolution, with Flynn continuing to lead the outreach with the Russian government through Kislyak,” it says.
The Russian ambassador had, however, told Flynn that if the measure came up for a vote, Russia would not oppose it.
“The resolution later passed 14-0, with the United States abstaining.”
Israel was shaken by the U.S. abstention decision, and the passage of resolution 2334 was viewed by some pro-Israel lawmakers as a parting shot at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by the outgoing Obama administration.
The Israeli government said at the time it had “iron-clad” information, from Arab and other governments, indicating that the Obama administration had a role in the crafting and passage of the text – a charge denied by White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
U.S. governments have been consistently supportive of Israel in U.N. and other international forums, but the Trump administration moved that support to a new level with multiple actions, ranging from withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council and the Iran nuclear deal to recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.