Jerusalem worried Obama may take other problematic steps

Netanyahu says US initiated and shepherded through the UN resolution, calls Shapiro to office to register protest; PM calls on ministers to reduce travel to 14 states who voted for UN measure.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Lighting Hanukkah candles at the Kotel (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Lighting Hanukkah candles at the Kotel
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Israel is concerned Washington’s refusal to shield it in the UN Security Council on Friday may not be US President Barack Obama’s final act on the Mideast, and that in his remaining month in office he may support additional steps inimical to Israel’s interests.
Among the concerns is that US Secretary of State John Kerry will deliver a final speech on the Mideast, laying down the Obama administration’s parameters for reaching a two-state solution, which may then be translated into an additional resolution being brought to the UN Security Council.
Sweden, whose foreign minister Margot Wallstrom was snubbed last week during a visit to Israel because of what Jerusalem views as a strong anti-Israel bias, will hold the rotating presidency of the Security Council in January.
Another possible place where moves fiercely opposed by Israel may be moved forward will be at a scheduled Mideast peace conference that France is now scheduling for January 15 in Paris, just five days before Obama leaves office. There, too, parameters may be adopted that Israel adamantly opposes.
Jerusalem, meanwhile, is in contact with US President- elect Donald Trump’s transition team, in an apparent effort to fend off further moves from the Obama administration in its final days in power. This effort is being spearheaded by Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer.
In a sign of Jerusalem’s concern, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his ministers on Sunday not to make grandiose statements regarding annexation or extending Israel’s sovereignty over the territories, so as not to give added incentive to those pushing for additional moves.
In a very rare step, Netanyahu summoned US Ambassador Dan Shapiro to his office on Sunday night, to protest the US behavior at the UN.
Earlier in the day, at the cabinet meeting, the prime minister ratcheted up his angry rhetoric against the Obama administration, saying that the anti-settlement resolution passed last Friday may have been sponsored by New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia, but that the Obama administration initiated it and shepherded it through.
“We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated the texts and made sure it passed,” he said. “This is, of course, in complete opposition to traditional US policy, which committed itself to not trying to impose permanent agreement conditions, or anything connected to them, in the UN Security Council.”
At the same time, Netanyahu urged his ministers to act “wisely, responsibly and calmly.” He said that the security cabinet would meet on Sunday afternoon, and that the ministers should act on this issue according to directives that will come out of that meeting.
Among those directives were instructions on reducing travel for the coming weeks to the 12 countries on the 15-member UN Security countries with which Israel has diplomatic ties that voted for the resolution.
This includes countries such as Russia, China, Britain, France, Spain and Japan.
In addition to calling Shapiro into his office, Netanyahu directed the Foreign Ministry to summon to the ministry and protest the vote to the representatives of the 10 countries that have permanent missions in Israel and voted for the resolution.
Calling in these representatives, though expected, was unusual, as it took place on Christmas Day.
In addition, Foreign Ministry officials said that a scheduled meeting this week by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman was canceled because Ukraine voted for the resolution. But Groysman’s spokesman Dmytro Stolyarchuk told the Interfax Ukraine news agency that Groysman had himself postponed his visit to Israel. He didn’t specify the reason for the cancellation, nor did he say when it would be rescheduled.
Jewish Ukrainian MP Evgeni Geller did not directly confirm the report, but rather – in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post – dismissed the significance of who postponed the meeting, saying, “The main point is that the meeting will not be conducted.” Geller said he did not believe that the UN vote will have any impact on the future of Israeli-Ukrainian relations.
The Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, denied reports that Netanyahu had canceled a scheduled meeting in Davos on January with Prime Minister Theresa May because Britain voted for the resolution.
“No meeting was set, so no meeting was canceled,” one diplomatic official said.
One senior government official said that 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 in Jerusalem with no repercussions to bilateral ties.
In an afternoon Facebook post, Netanyahu slammed the leaders of countries of the world that sent Israel Hanukka greetings a day after voting for a resolution that characterized the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Temples stood, as occupied Palestinian territory.
“I am not sure they understand the meaning of the holiday,” the prime minister wrote, adding that the battles that led to the victory of the Hasmoneans over the Greeks celebrated in Hanukka took place on “both sides of the Green Line in the hills of Modi’in.
“How is it possible to offer us best wishes for Hanukka and at the same time deny our deep connection to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and other places in our land?” he asked.
In response to the UN resolution, Netanyahu and a number of his ministers went to the Western Wall on Sunday night to light the Hanukka menorah there.
In another Facebook post on Sunday, Netanyahu took aim at unnamed politicians from the Left and TV pundits who were “pleased as punch at the anti-Israel resolution in the UN, almost as much as those on the Palestinian and Hamas networks. Some of them focused their attacks precisely on the government of Israel.
“I can understand why the wise Israeli public refuses to give them its votes at the ballot box,” he wrote.
Tamara Zieve contributed to this report from Kiev.