Israel Pulse

Obama's 'total surprise' for Netanyahu

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Article Summary
Israeli sources revealed to Al-Monitor some of the alleged evidence showing the United States was deeply involved in advancing UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning settlements.

“The Security Council resolution against the settlements that was adopted last Friday [Dec. 23] because no veto was cast by the US is not an isolated event,” an Israeli source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “We are talking about a chain reaction. It is a declaration of war on the part of the American administration against Israel and Israel’s counter-war declaration against the administration and the countries that supported the decision. It could very well be that the culmination of all this is still before us.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the opening of a Cabinet meeting Dec. 25 that Israel has conclusive evidence proving, according to him, that the Americans were behind Security Council Resolution 2334, affirming the illegality of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The resolution has shaken up Israel and is causing its leaders to lose all vestiges of diplomatic propriety regarding anything related to President Barack Obama and his administration. “Who is Obama? Obama is history,” Culture Minister Miri Regev told Channel 2 on Dec. 27.

In a conversation with Al-Monitor, a highly placed Israeli source detailed some of the information that flowed to Jerusalem on the heels of the resolution and galvanized Netanyahu and his ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, to open a public trial, so to speak, against the Obama administration for what Netanyahu’s associates qualified as a flagrant betrayal and abandonment of Israel.

“It was not an innocent event,” the source said. “This was not a motion [brought by some other country] that the Americans examined and then decided, by coincidence, not to cast a veto against. Instead, it was an event orchestrated by the Americans, big time. They were very active behind the scenes in formulating and then promoting the bill, until the decisive vote. When their machinations got stuck due to [President-elect] Donald Trump’s intervention, the administration went into emergency mode and succeeded in speeding up the proposal to the Security Council the very next day. The voices [that sponsored the proposal] were those of Senegal and New Zealand, but the hands were the hands of Obama.”

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When asked about the Obama administration’s version of events — that it did not plan or formulate the resolution submitted to the Security Council — the source asserted, “This is a false version of what happened.” The Israeli further claimed, “Information now flows freely to Jerusalem, and the resolution bears clear fingerprints of the US administration, from top to bottom.”

Another Israeli source, who is a close associate of the US administration as well as higher-ups in the Israeli government, said on condition of anonymity, “The fact that Israel now knows that the Americans are involved does not mitigate the enormity of the initial failure: That the American vote in the Security Council was a total surprise, and no one in Israel, including the prime minister, knew about it in advance. It was a diplomatic failure and also an intelligence failure. True, Netanyahu has been issuing warnings for a long time regarding an American diplomatic initiative. However, no one knew what exactly would happen or when. So Israel was also caught here with its pants down.”

The source added, “This time, the Americans carried it off professionally. They maintained secrecy and also compartmentalization [of information]. As opposed to other, similar incidents, in which the administration was sloppy [about leaks], this time they were efficient and focused. The proof: They were successful this time.”

According to information that reached Jerusalem from various sources, the chain of events supposedly went as follows. The Palestinians, headed by senior official Saeb Erekat, visited Washington a number of weeks ago. There they met with upper-echelon officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry. They showed Kerry a draft of the proposal that they planned to introduce to the Security Council, through one of the members of the council. Contrary to what some publications have reported, Kerry never promised them that there would not be an American veto, but he took the draft. What followed was a dramatic move by the Americans: They worked meticulously on the draft and sent various changes and rewrites to the Palestinians and afterward to Egypt.

The Israelis contend that the Americans purposely avoided direct intervention so as not to leave any footprints. Instead, they used a third party. The assessment in Jerusalem is that a European country was involved, quite possibly Great Britain, which took part in the efforts and served as a mediator between the US administration and the Palestinians and afterward vis-a-vis Egypt. Thus, the resolution draft was “laundered” to enable the US diplomatic move.

What the Americans had not counted on was vigorous Israeli involvement, including the intervention of President-elect Donald Trump, who called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and asked him to withdraw the proposal. The Egyptians found themselves in an impossible situation. On the one hand, they had become dependent on their alliance with Israel, mainly security cooperation in the Sinai Peninsula, and wanted to turn a new page in their relationship through Trump. They understood that the path to Washington still passes through Jerusalem. On the other hand, they could not block the proposal over the heads of the Palestinians and the entire Arab world. There was great consternation in Cairo, and Trump was the one to tip the scales. Trump made sure that Sisi understood how important it was for him to withdraw, and freeze, the proposal.

The withdrawal of the proposal surprised Washington, but it responded quickly. According to Israeli sources, the Americans re-concocted their plan to have Senegal and New Zealand resubmit the proposal. Israel was caught in the act. Netanyahu’s machinations in manipulating Trump caused tremendous damage to his ally Sisi, yet failed to bring about the desired result. The proposed resolution was submitted some 24 hours later and accepted by a 14-0 majority. The United States abstained. For the first and only time during Obama’s eight years in office, his administration chose not to cast a veto to block passage of a resolution condemning Israeli actions at the Security Council. Whether this will be the last time is now the burning question.

Kerry delivered a “parameters speech” Dec. 28 in Washington, outlining the main points, from the US perspective, of any future permanent arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. The parameters are based on those Kerry cobbled together with Netanyahu in 2014 and reported on in Al-Monitor. Jerusalem fears that Kerry’s speech might morph into a proposal for a UN Security Council resolution. This time, as well, the administration would not cast a veto against itself and its principles. It would be another tightening of the noose that Obama has placed around Netanyahu’s neck, moments before the president leaves the Oval Office for his presidential library.

Thus, it turns out, Obama’s presidential vengeance nonetheless will be had.

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Found in: donald trump, un security council, john kerry, israeli settlements, israeli occupation, benjamin netanyahu, barack obama, abdel fattah al-sisi

Ben Caspit is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Israel Pulse. He is also a senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers and has a daily radio show and regular TV shows on politics and Israel. On Twitter: @BenCaspit

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