Editorial: Netanyahu’s fight against UN vote is making matters worse

Netanyahu risks exposing Israel to a further deterioration in relations with the US in the three-and-a-half weeks that remain of the Obama administration’s term.

December 28, 2016 12:42
3 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel is worse off after UN Security Council Resolution 2334, but instead of mitigating the damage, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be making matters worse.

He has embarked on a diplomatic offensive that threatens to further isolate Israel and squander important diplomatic credit with the US Congress and the incoming Trump administration over yet another anti-Israel UN resolution.

He risks exposing Israel to a further deterioration in relations with the US in the three-and-a-half weeks that remain of the Obama administration’s term.

He is also further alienating the nation’s diplomatic corps in the Foreign Ministry, most of whom are undoubtedly opposed to the prime minister’s recent actions.

Considering the possibility that Obama might be planning further moves against Israel at the UN in the weeks that remain to his term, there is some justification to trying to create a deterrence. Nevertheless, since Israel needs the world more than the world needs Israel, the question is how much damage will Netanyahu’s retributive campaign do before it likely fails.

As The Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon pointed out, Netanyahu seemed to be operating on the premise that Israel’s status in the world has changed; for Israel is today courted by the world with much to offer in the fields of cyber security, agriculture, water management and military technology.

Therefore – so the reasoning goes – Israel is now in a position to punish countries by denying them the benefits that the Jewish state has to offer. As one senior government official put it, the government’s moves were meant to signal to the world both Israel’s deep displeasure and that these types of steps will not simply be overlooked.

Netanyahu summoned representatives of all the countries that voted for the resolution in the Security Council that have diplomatic missions in Israel – and he did it on Christmas Day. For Christian-majority countries like France and Britain, the timing of this dressing down must have been particularly disconcerting. Netanyahu also ordered his ministers to minimize their dealings with all 14 countries that voted in favor of the resolution.

Netanyahu chose not to schedule a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the World Economic Forum in Davos next month in protest against Britain’s vote. This is the same May that just two weeks ago, in an address to the Conservative Friends of Israel, referred to Israel as “a remarkable country” and a “beacon of tolerance” and said that the UK’s ties with Israel are “crucial.”

In response to Palestinian attempts to annul the 1917 Balfour Declaration, she described the document as “one of the most important letters in history.”

Rebuffing countries like Britain and France over a Security Council vote will not overturn the decision and will not gain Israel any new diplomatic clout. Extending the same reasoning to all the countries that regularly vote in the UN against Israel would leave us with few friends – maybe the Czech Republic, the US and Micronesia.

In the bilateral relations between Israel and a superpower like China, another country that voted against Israel, there is no doubt as to who is the primary beneficiary.

Netanyahu’s decision to cut aid to Senegal for its role in advancing resolution 2442 might really hurt the impoverished nation, and it will rightly be perceived as petty and vindictive and will therefore be counterproductive.

Attempting to enlist Congress to punish states and organizations, such as the UN, that seek to harm Israel is misguided. We question the logic of using up important credit with Congress to launch a worldwide offensive over a Security Council resolution.

Resolution 2334 will cause damage to Israel. It will harden Palestinian intransigence and embolden the BDS movement. The world does not support Israeli settlements in the West Bank and sees them as a violation of international law.

The UN is an institution that operates according to its own rules – a sort of alternative universe. Countries’ votes do not accurately reflect the level of their support for Israel.

New Zealand cannot be construed as hostile to Israel. Even Egypt took the extraordinary step of pulling its resolution at the last minute and maintains a stable though cold peace with Israel with extensive military cooperation.

The government should be spending its time crafting a long-term strategy for Israel and working on how to build diplomatic ties across the globe, not on how to cut them.

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