Benjamin Netanyahu has been unrelenting in his criticism of the Obama administration over what he condemned as its “shameful” decision not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a halt to Israeli settlement-building.
But with the clock ticking down on Barack Obama’s presidency, a possibly more amenable Republican Donald Trump due to succeed him on Jan. 20 and a $38 billion U.S. military aid package to Israel a done deal, it’s all a calculated risk for the four-term, right-wing Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu, after what critics are calling a stinging defeat on the international stage, is already maneuvering to mine deep-seated feelings among many Israelis that their country and its policies toward the Palestinians are overly criticized in a world where deadlier conflicts rage.
That all of Jerusalem is their country’s capital is a consensus view among Israelis, including those who otherwise have doubts about the wisdom of Netanyahu’s support for settlements on the West Bank. Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem as their capital, and Washington has in the past accepted an international view that the city’s status must be determined at future peace talks. Trump has promised to reverse decades of U.S. policy by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Some 570,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as part of a future state. Also on Sunday; an Israeli official said Netanyahu had ordered that until Trump takes office, cabinet ministers refrain from traveling to or meeting officials of countries that voted in favor of the U.N. resolution. The diplomatic drama unfolded over the Christmas holiday, with twists and turns unusual even for the serpentine path followed by Netanyahu’s relationship with a Democratic president who opposes settlement building. It passed 14-0, with an abstention from the United States, withholding Washington’s traditional use of its veto to protect Israel at the world body in what was widely seen as a parting shot by Obama against Netanyahu and his settlement policy.