Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has apparently snubbed Theresa May over the UK’s support of a highly critical UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement building.
The move is the latest in a series of diplomatic retaliations by Israel against the countries that supported a UN security council resolution describing Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as a “flagrant violation” of international law and an obstacle to peace.
Reports in the Israeli media said Netanyahu had told ministers at his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that he did not intend to meet May in Davos at the forthcoming World Economic Forum.
Responding to the reports, the UK’s deputy ambassador, Tony Kay, said he regretted the decision. “It is a disappointment that the Israeli government has announced that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not want to have a conversation with Theresa May,” Kay told Israel Army Radio on Monday.
Kay had been called in with other ambassadors and senior diplomats of the other members of the security council who voted for the motion or abstained, including the US ambassador Dan Shapiro, to be reprimanded for supporting a resolution that reiterated the view of the international community that Jewish settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace.
“I’m sure there will be many conversations between the two prime ministers moving forward and we look forward to having those conversations, and we’ll certainly continue to have those conversations in Tel Aviv,” Kay said.
In response to the reports, Israeli officials said no meeting had been scheduled with May. “No meeting with the UK prime minister had been set therefore no meeting was cancelled,” a spokesperson said.
However, the Israeli media later reported that – despite the official denial – there had been discussions about May and Netanyahu speaking in Davos, although Britain had not been officially informed of the cancellation.
The prime minister is regarded as one of the most pro-Israeli leaders in Europe, recently describing it as “a remarkable country” and “a beacon of tolerance”.
Kay’s comments came as the fallout from Friday’s vote continued to reverberate, amid growing fears in Israel that the US and the security council may be considering further moves against Israel before Donald Trump is inaugurated as US president on 20 January.
That has included speculation over a second security council resolution and reports that the US secretary of state, John
Kerry, may be considering a speech outlining potential parameters for a two-state solution in the dying days of the Barack Obama administration.
The moves come against the background of reports that Israel is to approve hundreds of new houses in occupied Jerusalem.
The moves by the Obama administration, including the abstention in the security council vote on Friday, appear designed to leave a legacy of acts that can be used by the EU, the international criminal court and other institutions to continue to pressure Israel over settlement and the moribund peace process even if Trump – as appears highly likely – pursues a one-sided and vigorously pro-Israel foreign policy.
On Monday night Donald Trump made clear his thoughts on the effectiveness of the UN. The president-elect wrote:
On Friday, Trump warned after the resolution passed: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th,” referring to the day he takes office.
Israel has warned of further retaliation to come against the UN and countries that supported the resolution. That includes the emergence of further details on the UN agencies Israel is considering sanctioning as part of its diplomatic blitz, including cutting funding.
Among the reported targets is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has long been in Israel’s sights and runs schools and provides housing and facilities in refugee camps in the occupied territories.
It is also being suggested that Israel will promote its own UN resolution that would set rules of conduct for UN employees so they would be made accountable for any statements regarded as being anti-Israel – although it is unclear what support if any that could muster given last week’s uncontested vote.
Despite the loud noises from Netanyahu it remained unclear how much of it was bluster, designed to placate rightwing sentiments within his own Likud party and far-right coalition partners such as Jewish Home, and how much would have concrete consequences.
In contrast to the recent harsh statements, Netanyahu has also reportedly warned ministers to avoid making calls for annexation of the occupied territories for fear of promoting further moves aganist Israel.
The latest planned reported moves also come amid evidence of a mounting backlash against Netanyahu’s handling of the situation.
On Monday Yesh Atid, the party of one of Netanyahu’s biggest rivals on the right, Yair Lapid, urged the Knesset to summon Netanyahu to explain the “dangerous deterioration in Israel’s foreign relations” following the vote.
Israeli columnists also continued to damn Netanyahu’s handling of the fallout with Ben Caspit, of the Maariv, describing his “campaign of chastisement” as the “most unwarranted and looniest in the world of diplomacy in modern history”.
On 23 November 2019, EuroPal Forum and Middle East Monitor co-hosted a conference at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in London on the relations between Europe and Palestine. A first of its kind, the conference brought together individuals at the forefront of discourse on Palestine in
As the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rules that European Union countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, MEMO and EuroPal Forum are hosting a conference to discuss the EU’s position on major issues related to the occupat