Israel to call in French envoy to protest vote in UN Security Council

Jerusalem surprised that France voted in favor of resolution to force Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande, Paris September 19, 2014.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande, Paris September 19, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Foreign Ministry will call French envoy Patrick Maisonnave to its offices in Jerusalem on Friday to protest Paris’s decision Tuesday to back the Palestinians’ UN Security Council resolution.
The resolution fell one vote short of the nine needed to pass and thereby trigger a US veto.
France had been working on a more moderately worded proposal to the Security Council, which it tried to merge with the Palestinian proposal but which the Palestinians ultimately rejected.
Jerusalem was therefore surprised that France had then turned around and supported the Palestinian proposal, one diplomatic official said.
The Palestinian resolution called for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines within three years, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
France was one of two EU countries that voted for the proposal, the other being Luxembourg.
Russia, China, Jordan, Chad, Argentina and Chile also supported the move. A different official said that only France’s envoy would be called in to hear a formal protest, because it was the only country that Israel had expected to vote differently.
The US and Australia voted against the measure, while Britain, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Korea and Lithuania abstained.
Aside from Jerusalem registering its displeasure with the envoy, the French vote is unlikely to impact French-Israeli relations, the second official said, partly because Israel appreciates the consistently tough position France has taken in the P5+1 talks with Iran.
At the same time, the official said that France – which had hopes of playing a leading role in restarting an Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process – had clearly lost the credibility it would need in Jerusalem to play such a role.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the US and Australia for voting against the motion, and praised Rwanda and Nigeria for abstaining.
“I want to express appreciation and gratitude to the United States and Australia, as well as special appreciation to the president of Rwanda, my friend Paul Kagame, and to the president of Nigeria, my friend Goodluck Jonathan,” Netanyahu said when he arrived Wednesday at a Jerusalem polling place to vote in the Likud primary.
“I spoke with both of them. They promised me personally that they would not support this decision, and they stood by their words. That is what tipped the scales,” he said.
Netanyahu phoned both men on Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, Rwanda, which has emerged as one of Israel’s strongest friends in Africa, stayed away – as did the US, Canada and Australia – from a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention that harshly criticized Israel.
Netanyahu was not the only one making phone calls to leaders of Security Council member countries. According to Israeli officials, the US was also heavily involved in lobbying countries, especially South Korea, not to vote for the proposal.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Palestinians’ failure to get nine votes for the resolution should teach them that “provocations” and attempts to impose conditions unilaterally on Israel would lead them nowhere.
“The Palestinian disregard for important countries in the international arena, first and foremost the US, stems from the backing they get from some of the states in Europe,” he said, in an obvious reference to France and Luxembourg.
“Every state that truly wants to move an arrangement forward needs to act responsibly and make clear to the Palestinians that decisions are made only around the negotiating table,” he stated.
The fact that fellow EU countries Britain and Lithuania voted against the resolution illustrates the wide differences on the Mideast that exist inside the 28-state European body.
Liberman praised his ministry for the work it had done to thwart the resolution – the second time in three years that Israel has dodged a bullet on this issue in the Security Council – and cited Israel’s concentrated diplomatic efforts in Africa, the far East and central Europe.
In 2011, the Palestinians failed in their attempt to win full UN statehood recognition in the Security Council.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power defended Washington’s position against the proposal by saying it was not a vote against peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement,” she said during the debate on the resolution. “The Security Council resolution put before us today is not one of those constructive steps.”
She asserted that the resolution was “deeply imbalanced and contains many elements that are not conducive to negotiations between the parties, including unconstructive deadlines that take no account of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”
Power added that it “was put to a vote without a discussion or due consideration among council members.”
She said, however, that the vote “should not be interpreted as a victory for an unsustainable status quo. Instead, it should serve as a wake-up call to catalyze all interested parties to take constructive, responsible steps to achieve a two-state solution, which remains the only way to bring an end to the ongoing cycle of violence and suffering.”
Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar expressed regret that the resolution had been voted down.
“We had hoped that the Security Council will today adopt the draft Arab resolution because the council bears both the legal and moral responsibilities to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” she said.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, she said that Jordan had largely expected that the resolution would be defeated.
“In the name of the Arab group, we do regret that it did not pass, but we were more or less aware that this time it would not pass,” Kawar said.
When questioned, she said that Jordan had made it clear that it wanted more time for negotiations, and that the reason the Jordanians had pushed the resolution to a vote on Tuesday – as opposed to two days later, when a new Security Council membership that will be weighted more in the Palestinians’ favor is due to take office – was that the Palestinians had requested the vote.
Palestinian observer Riyad Mansour said the defeated resolution was the result of threeand- a-half months of efforts that followed the summer’s conflict in Gaza. He said it was time to end the “abhorrent Israeli occupation and impunity that has brought our people so much suffering.”
“The result of today’s vote shows that the Security Council as a whole is clearly not ready and willing to shoulder its responsibilities in a way that would... allow us to open the doors to peace,” he said. “It is thus most regrettable that the Security Council remains paralyzed.”
In a brief statement, Israeli delegate Israel Nitzan told the council that the Palestinians had found every possible opportunity to avoid direct negotiations and had come to the council with “a preposterous unilateral proposal.”
“I have news for the Palestinians – you cannot agitate and provoke your way to a state,” he said.
In a sign of Israel’s unwillingness to elevate the resolution, and to underline how Jerusalem viewed it as little less than a Palestinian provocation, Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor was in Israel at the time of the proceedings and did not take part in the debate.
French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said Paris would continue its efforts to get a resolution through the council to move diplomatic efforts forward.
“France regrets that it isn’t possible to reach a consensus today,” he said. “But our efforts must not stop here. It is our responsibility to try again.”
Reuters contributed to this report.