Although Israel has focused criticism on the Obama administration, British officials admitted on Thursday that they were in fact the ones who orchestrated the U.N. Security Council vote against Israel a week ago.
The Jewish Chronicle cited an unnamed senior British political source saying that by the time the text reached the Security Council delegations, it was “in effect a British resolution.” The Guardian also reported that British diplomats “played a key behind-the-scenes role” in securing passage of the contentious resolution.
Another British source told the Chronicle that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s support for the resolution was in line with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s rationale presented on Wednesday, stating that Israel’s friends must take a stand against policies in dispute territories.
According to the source, Britain’s machinations behind Resolution 2334 was “the first step in a re-emphasizing of longstanding U.K. policy against settlements.”
However, a government spokesman issued a statement later on Thursday that appeared somewhat at odds with what the unnamed sources told the newspapers.
Referring to Kerry’s speech, he said that “we do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this cases the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex.”
And then in a startling rebuke to the Americans, who have unleashed a scathing attack on the Netanyahu government in recent days for what they consider to be obstructionism to peace, he said:
“And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally. The Government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community.
“We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal, which is why we supported U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 last week. But we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict. In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long.”
Earlier this week, the U.K.’s deputy ambassador to Israel expressed “disappointment” over reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has canceled a planned meeting with May in protest of the tack she was taking.
Netanyahu’s office denied reports of a cancellation, claiming that no such meeting had ever been on the itinerary at the World Economic Forum in Davos next month, where both will be attending. But the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv, Tony Kay, told The Times of Israel there had been plans for a sit-down, though Yerushalayim had not informed London of a change.
Meanwhile, Australia offered Israel minor comfort on Thursday, as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the Sydney Morning Herald that if her country had a seat on the Security Council it would likely have cast the only vote against the resolution.
“In voting at the U.N., the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel,” she noted.
On the other hand, the current leader of Australia’s opposition, Chris Bowen, told the paper that his Labour party supports a two-state solution and that settlements were “a roadblock to peace.”