The United Nations, in an annual exercise, voted in five countries last week to begin serving two-year stints on the Security Council, beginning on January 1. Although there was some good news for Israel in the results, most of it was bad.
The good news is that the Turkey of Israel-bashing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed in its bid for one of the five rotating, non-permanent seats, losing in balloting to Spain. The bad news is that of the five new members, two of them – Venezuela and Malaysia – do not even have diplomatic relations with Israel.
What that means is that when the members of the new council take their seats in January for a year in which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is likely to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a major agenda item on the council’s schedule, fully 20 percent of the 15-member body are so hostile to Israel as to refuse to have diplomatic relations. (Venezuela and Malaysia will be joining Chad – which still has another year to serve on the council – in this dubious distinction.) In 2011, when the Palestinians tried unsuccessfully to secure the nine votes on the council needed to gain membership as a UN state, only one of the 15 countries – Lebanon – did not have ties with Israel.
Even if the Palestinians do get nine votes, the US can – and probably will – use its veto to quell the type of resolution that the Palestinians are now considering: calling for a strict timetable for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines if an agreement is not reached within a year. But not only does Washington not want to have to use this veto – which would seemingly pit it against the opinion of the world – but Israel does not want to put the US in the position of having to do so.
The Palestinians are likely to wait until the new Security Council to push through their measure, because the incoming class is considerably more favorably inclined to them than the outgoing one.
In addition to the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council – the US, China, Russia, France and Britain – the outgoing, 2014 council includes Lithuania, Chile, Jordan, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Korea, Argentina, Australia and Luxembourg.
The last five countries will be replaced in January, with Rwanda being replaced by Angola, South Korea by Malaysia, Argentina by Venezuela, Australia by New Zealand, and Luxembourg by Spain.
Israel is losing a good friend on the council with the exit of Australia.
Australia under Prime Minister Tony Abbott is outspokenly supportive of Israel; New Zealand is not. Still, if the US, Australia and the EU are opposed to a Palestinian resolution – and apply pressure on Wellington – it is difficult to imagine New Zealand bucking the pressure and voting with the non-aligned and Muslim blocs. But, as one source in Jerusalem said, if Israel could rely on Australia with its eyes closed, it can rely on New Zealand only with its eyes open.
Rwanda, one of Israel’s strongest friends in Africa, is being replaced by Angola, a country with which Israel has strong business ties – Israeli firms are active in developing Angola’s vast infrastructure – but not nearly as close as a relationship as it enjoys with Rwanda. In 2011, the refusal of Gabon to back the Palestinian move in the Security Council helped sink it, a role Angola could play in 2014 – but a role it is not guaranteed to want to play.
Spain is replacing Luxembourg as Europe’s non-permanent member of the council, and there is unlikely to be any change of voting patterns with this development. Both countries are considered to be tough toward Israel inside the EU, with Luxembourg even worse than Spain when looking at – and ranking – Israel’s friends and critics inside the EU.
Spain’s government has been more understanding toward Israel in the last couple of years, even though Spanish public opinion is overwhelmingly negative. In any event, Spain – like Luxembourg – is unlikely to vote independently on high-profile Israeli-Palestinian issues, but rather follow the EU’s position. Luxembourg, one source said, is a self-righteous, moralizing, lecturing little country. Spain, he said, is a self-righteous, moralizing, lecturing big country.
Another incoming member, Venezuela, is a stridently anti-Israeli and anti-US country that is aligned with Iran and Cuba. It will replace Argentina. Truth be told, Argentina could not be counted on to support Israel in Security Council votes, so it is unlikely this is a swing vote. But there is a difference: While Argentina might have gone along with a pro-Palestinian campaign in the council, Venezuela will likely lead it.
The biggest change in terms of losing one friendly country that would give Israel a fair hearing in exchange for a hostile country that will not, is the replacement of South Korea with Malaysia.
Whereas Israel could expect South Korea to abstain in significant votes on its issues in the Security Council – partly because it does not want to follow China’s lead, and partly because it keeps an eye on how Washington votes – Malaysia will surely vote against Israel, and, like Venezuela, likely lead the campaign in the council against it.
While the Security Council will in 2015 be more tilted toward the Palestinians, this does not mean that the game is over and the Palestinians have their nine votes to force a US veto in the bag. It does mean, however, that they are closer to that goal. And one of ramifications of this is that Israel will be more reliant next year for Washington to “save” it in the Security Council than it was in 2014.
And that, obviously, is something that is lost neither on Washington, nor on Jerusalem.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>