(CNSNews.com) – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday ratcheted up the dispute with the outgoing administration over last month’s U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel, saying Israel has “unequivocal evidence” that it had led the initiative.
“We have unequivocal evidence that the Security Council resolution passed in the U.N. against Israel was led by the administration,” Netanyahu told a visiting AIPAC delegation. “There’s no question whatsoever about that – none whatsoever.”
The administration has adamantly denied that it drafted or played a key behind-the-scenes role in getting resolution 2334 presented for a vote.
Adopted by the council on December 23 – after the administration chose to abstain rather than use its veto – the measure condemns Israeli settlements in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, and claimed by the Palestinians for a future independent state.
It declares eastern Jerusalem, including Judaism’s most sacred site, to be “Palestinian territory” and “occupied Palestinian territory,” and calls Israeli presence there “a flagrant violation under international law.”
Critics suspect the administration effectively orchestrated the resolution’s passage in a final swipe at Netanyahu, whose relationship with President Obama has been a difficult one.
Under questioning, the State Department conceded that when the draft was being circulated the administration told other Security Council members “what further changes were needed to make the text more balanced.”
But that interaction could also have been designed precisely to ensure its passage, by informing other council members what wording should be used in order to avoid a U.S. veto.
The Israeli government has indicated it will hand over “evidence” of the administration’s involvement to the incoming Trump administration.
‘Major break with US policy’
Kerry and other administration officials have repeatedly rejected the argument that the decision to abstain and allow resolution 2334 to pass marked a shift in U.S. policy.
“Previous administrations of both political parties have allowed resolutions that were critical of Israel to pass, including on settlements,” Kerry said in a controversial Mideast speech late last month.
Kerry told CNN last week that “previous [Security Council] resolutions have historically referred to the land that was taken in the 1967 war … as occupied territory.”
Netanyahu on Tuesday disputed the claim that resolution 2334 “just reformulates the things that were said by all previous administrations.”
On the contrary, he said, it marked a “major break with U.S. policy.”
Netanyahu then quoted a statement from the last Democratic administration, clearly rejecting on behalf of the U.S. government the notion that territory concerned is “occupied Palestinian territory.”
At a Security Council session considering a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in March 1994, then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (later secretary of state) Madeleine Albright said: “We oppose the specific references to Jerusalem in this resolution and will continue to oppose its insertion in future resolutions.”
“We simply do not support the description of the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war as ‘occupied Palestinian territory,’” Albright said.
(Netanyahu ended the quote there, but in her next sentence Albright gave the Clinton administration’s reason for that: “In the view of my government, this language could be taken to indicate sovereignty, a matter which both Israel and the PLO have agreed must be decided in negotiations on the final status of the territories.”)
On that occasion the U.S. did not veto the resolution (UNSCR 904), but called for an unusual paragraph-by-paragraph vote to indicate its opposition to some of the language. Albright also said that if that language had been in the resolution’s operative paragraphs, rather than the preambular section, the U.S. would have vetoed it.
U.S. administrations have long held that peace efforts must be negotiated by Israeli and Palestinian leaders directly, and not be pushed by the U.N.
Netanyahu said the Obama administration’s abstention on resolution 2334 was both a “substantive break” with previous U.S. policy and a “procedural break.”
“The United States said that all matters pertaining to a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be addressed, as you know, in the Security Council, or under U.N. resolutions,” he said. Allowing resolution 2334 to pass had been “a breach of that policy.”
Netanyahu expressed fresh concern that there may yet be one final push to add to the U.N. pressure on Israel, before the administration departs on January 20.
Attention is now focused on a French-hosted meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, planned for Sunday. The State Department confirmed Tuesday that Secretary of State John Kerry will participate in the gathering of foreign ministers.
“We’re concerned that there may be a repetition of this,” Netanyahu told the American visitors. “We’re doing our best – we hope you’ll do your best to exert the influence so that it doesn’t happen, because it pushes peace further away.”