Israeli PM summons envoys of UNSC members over settlement vote

Jerusalem, Dec 25 (IANS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday summoned ambassadors of the UN Security Council member countries for a reprimand over a West Bank settlements resolution, the Foreign Ministry said.

The envoys were required to arrive at the ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem on Sunday, despite the Christmas and Sunday holiday, Xinhua news agency quoted the Ministry as saying in a statement.

In all, 10 ambassadors or deputies were expected in Jerusalem, of France, Britain, China, Russia, Spain, Japan, Egypt, Angola, Ukraine, and Uruguay.

The move was part of a “diplomatic and economic price” that Netanyahu vowed to exact from countries who supported the historic motion to end the Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

During his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu continued to lash out at US President Barack Obama for not using the US veto to prevent the vote.

“We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated its versions and insisted upon its passage,” Netanyahu said according to a statement released by his office.

“Over decades, the American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements. But we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue,” he said.

Also on Sunday, as part of the retribution, Isreali Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed the Israeli Coordinator of the Government’s Activities in the Territories to cease all meetings and talks with senior Palestinian officials.

The vote, passed by a 14-0 majority, with the United States abstaining, demands Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”, Xinhua news agency reported.

It states that the building of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

The Palestinians hailed the move, with Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, telling Israel’s Walla news site that he hopes the resolution will help re-ignite the long-stalled peace talks.

Israel reacted furiously, immediately rejecting the motion and slamming it as an “anti-Israeli” move.

In a broadcast address at a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony on Saturday night honouring wounded soldiers and the victims of terrorism, Netanyahu denounced Obama for his “shameful ambush”, adding that he is looking forward to working with his “friend”, President-elect Donald Trump, to undo the move.

Netanyahu said Israel will re-assess its ties with the UN. He noted that he already ordered a cut of 30 million shekels (about $8 million) in funding to five “especially hostile” UN bodies.

“I instructed the Foreign Ministry to complete within a month a re-evaluation of all our contacts with the United Nations, including the Israeli funding of UN institutions and the presence of UN representatives in Israel,” he said.

Netanyahu also cancelled a scheduled visit by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, a day after it called back its envoys in New Zealand and Senegal, which together with Venezuela and Malaysia proposed the resolution.

The US, Israel’s closest ally, traditionally protects Israel from such motions. On Friday, it abstained despite massive pressures by Israel and President-elect Donald Trump for Washington to use its veto.

The move came in the wake of the Regulation Bill, which parliament approved in first out of three readings earlier in December. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition supports the bill.

About 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands that Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast War and has been controlling them ever since, despite international condemnations.

The Palestinians wish to build their future state in these lands.

The US officially opposes the settlements and considers them as an obstacle to peace. The settlements are illegal under international law.

–IANS

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