Posted by Curt on 27 December, 2016 at 4:17 pm. 1 comment.


Vladislav Davidzon:

The repercussions of Friday’s United Nations Security Council vote in favor of a resolution urging Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory” continue to reverberate. The resolution, which declared Jewish settlement anywhere in the West Bank including the Old City of Jerusalem to be in violation of international law, passed by 14-0, with the United States abstaining—a game-changing action that broke with decades of diplomatic guarantees to Israel and which enraged American Jewish political leaders in both parties.

A wealth of evidence is now emerging that, far from simply abstaining from a UN vote, which is how the Administration and its press circle at first sought to characterize its actions, the anti-Israel resolution was actively vetted at the highest levels of the U.S. Administration, which then led a pressure campaign—both directly and through Great Britain—to convince other countries to vote in favor of it.

Tablet has confirmed that one tangible consequence of the high-level U.S. campaign was a phone call from Vice President Joseph Biden to Ukrainian President Pavel Poroshenko, which succeeded in changing Ukraine’s vote from an expected abstention to a “yes.” According to one U.S. national security source, the Obama Administration needed a 14-0 vote to justify what the source called “the optics” of its own abstention.

“Did Biden put pressure on the Ukrainians? Categorically yes,” said a highly-placed figure within the Israeli government with strong connections to Ukrainian government sources, who confirmed to Tablet that the Americans had put direct pressure on both the Ukrainian delegation—and on Poroshenko personally in Kiev. “That Biden told them to do it is 1000% true,” the source affirmed.

The allegation supports the accusation leveled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the Obama Administration at a Cabinet meeting on Sunday. “We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated its versions and insisted upon its passage,” the Prime Minister said.

In Ukraine, the fall-out from the country’s UN vote has created a “domestic scandal,” a press secretary for President Poroshenko’s administration admitted to me on Monday morning in Kiev. Immediately after the vote, the official state visit to Tel Aviv by Ukraine’s Jewish prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, was canceled by the Israelis. Groysman was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday morning for a two day long visit, which was due to be his first official visit as the prime minister of Ukraine. The UN vote also took place two days after the desecration with a pig’s head and fake blood of the synagogue at the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman in Uman, as well as reported assaults on Orthodox Jewish men praying there. As I reported last Friday, one of the topics on the agenda with the Israelis was to have been Groysman laying out a series of measures that the Ukrainian government intended to take to enhance the security of Jewish pilgrims to the mystic’s birthplace, which is a popular pilgrimage site for Israelis.

The phone call between Poroshenko and Biden, which took place on December 19th, has been officially acknowledged by both parties. The Ukrainian presidential administration’s official statement on the particulars of the discussion contains no mention that the settlement vote was discussed. Vice President Biden’s national security advisor Colin Kahl—who, incidentally, was one of the staffers instrumental in a failed attempt to have any mention of Jerusalem removed from the 2012 Democratic Party platform—has tweeted several denials.

But a spokesman for the Ukrainian Presidential administration pointedly refused to either confirm or deny that a section of Biden’s call not covered in the read-out consisted of the US Vice President personally lobbying Ukraine to vote “Yes” on the Security Council resolution. The American pressure campaign, according to multiple sources, went beyond the single phone call between Poroshenko and Biden; according to these sources, the Ukrainians had wanted to postpone the vote by several days as a gesture to the Israelis, but the U.S. refused.

“As much as we understand that they did not want to break or tarnish relations with Israel, they could not simply say ‘no’ to the Americans,” said one high-ranking Israeli government source. “Samantha Power personally put pressure on the Ukrainian ambassador in the UN and told them that the American side was not willing to accept a delay.”

There are conflicting accounts circulating around Kiev of the diplomatic pressure that was leveraged by the Israelis on the Ukrainians in order to make them, at the very least, abstain from the resolution. Persistent rumors assert that Netanyahu personally called Groysman to lobby for a vote against the resolution. However, a Jewish member of the Ukrainian parliament who is a close confidant of Groysman insisted Netanyahu never made a personal call. According to that account, Ukraine’s Jewish Prime Minister was as surprised as everyone else to find out, the next day, that he would not be traveling to Tel Aviv.

“I am not certain that he knew until the end,” he said, referring to Groysman. “A very small circle of people knew about the decision, and the people who know will not divulge this information because it looks bad, and they feel humiliated, because this shows that they cannot make their own decisions.”

Now, Ukrainians—including many Ukrainian Jewish leaders who were deeply invested in the Ukrainian-Israeli relationship—are left to sift through the rubble of a US-inspired diplomatic disaster for both countries. Oleksandr Suslenskyi, a head of Ukraine’s Jewish organization reacted to the news of the UN security council vote with the verbal equivalent of a deep sigh. “Poroshenko was greeted like a guest of honor in Israel. This is a total collapse of Ukraine diplomatic legitimacy,” he said. “Now Ukraine’s security and strategic partners will be Senegal, New Zealand and Venezuela.”

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