Israel Told New Zealand UN Anti-Settlement Resolution Is ‘Declaration of War’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned New Zealand’s foreign minister that his nation’s co-sponsorship of a United Nations resolution asking Israel to stop settlement construction in illegally occupied Palestine was a “declaration of war.”
Haaretz reports Netanyahu personally phoned Foreign Minister Murray McCully hours before Friday’s UN Security Council vote on the resolution, which passed 13-0 with the United States abstaining, asking New Zealand to stop promoting the measure.
“This is a scandalous decision. I’m asking that you not support it and not promote it,” Netanyahu told McCully, according to Western diplomats who asked to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the issue. “If you continue to promote this resolution from our point of view it will be a declaration of war. It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences. We’ll recall our ambassador to Jerusalem.” A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official also called Jonathan Curr, New Zealand’s ambassador to Israel, to warn him of the possibility the Jewish state would close its embassy in Wellington to protest the resolution.
McCully was unmoved. “This resolution conforms to our policy and we will move it forward,” he told Netanyahu. New Zealand co-sponsored the resolution, which affirmed Israel’s Jews-only settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal under international law and undermine the two-state solution and the prospects for peace in the region. The resolution demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” but it prescribes no sanctions for failure to do so.
US President-elect Donald Trump, who along with Israel pressured Egypt, which initially sponsored the resolution, to back down, after which New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela led the move to resubmit the measure for a vote.
Israel accused the United States of orchestrating the resolution. “We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, co-ordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” Netanyahu said, according to BBC News. “Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council,” he added. The Times of Israel reports transcripts of a meeting between top American and Palestinian officials published in an Egyptian newspaper apparently corroborate Israel’s accusations, however, the Obama administration vehemently denies being behind the resolution. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a lengthy address Wednesday in which he explained the United States “could not in good conscience stand in the way” of a resolution that seeks to preserve the way forward to peace and a two-state solution.
While it has been the policy of successive US administrations to declare their opposition to Israeli settlement construction and expansion — the State Department issued a legal opinion calling such colonization “inconsistent with international law” in 1978, and while the issue of settlements has caused considerable tension between the two nations going back decades, the United States has repeatedly blocked anti-settlement resolutions in the UN. Most recently, the Obama administration vetoed such a measure in 2011. The US also provides Israel with around $3 billion in unconditional annual military aid; Obama recently approved a record $38 billion aid package to be delivered over the next decade.
Under international law, Jewish settler colonies built or expanded on Palestinian territory are illegal. Israel’s 49-year occupation of the West Bank is also illegal under international law, although Israel refutes the illegality of both the settlements and the occupation. Israel points to the fact that Jews have lived in Palestine for thousands of years; however, from ancient times until the early 20th century Jews never numbered more than 10 percent of the population of the territory comprising the state of Israel today. More than 800,000 Jews currently reside in illegal settlements in the West Bank or illegally occupied portions of East Jerusalem. Some prominent international critics have called Jewish settlement construction and expansion “ethnic cleansing,” while others, including Nobel Peace laureates Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire, have accused Israel of practicing “apartheid” against the Palestinians.
Israel responded defiantly and angrily to the resolution, temporarily suspending all working ties with the embassies of Security Council nations who voted for the measure and vowing to move ahead with the construction of thousands of new Jewish settler homes in illegally occupied East Jerusalem. Netanyahu also took the highly unusual step of summoning US Ambassador Dan Shapiro for rebuke over what the Israeli prime minister called a “shameful” resolution.