The United States will not take the floor at the main U.N. human rights forum on Monday during the annual debate on violations committed in the Palestinian territories, a U.S. spokesman told Reuters.
The step, which is unprecedented at the 47-member state forum where Washington unfailingly defends Israel, follows signals that the Obama administration is undertaking a “reassessment” of relations with the Jewish state.
“The U.S. delegation will not be speaking about Palestine today,” a U.S. spokesman in Geneva told Reuters in response to a query as the debate began. He declined further comment.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allies acknowledged on Sunday that his election-eve disavowal of a Palestinian state had caused a rift with the White House, but blamed U.S. President Barack Obama’s unprecedented criticism on a misunderstanding.
Former Envoys Say Obama’s ‘Childish’ Attacks on Israel ‘Cause Significant Strategic Harm’
Two former Israeli ambassadors to the United States, Michael Oren and Danny Ayalon, have responded to the criticism directed by the Obama Administration against Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu, calling the comments a strategic threat to Israel, and intentionally intended to deepen the rift with the Jewish state.
Immediately after the results of Israel’s elections were announced on Tuesday revealing that Netanyahu’s Likud had won 30 seats and looked set to form the next government, the Obama Administration began harshly criticizing the Prime Minister and Israel. White House and State Department spokesmen said that Netanyahu’s alleged “reversal on a two-state solution,” would be followed by a re-evaluation of the US-Israel relationship, and the United States’ defense of Israel at the United Nations. The Administration also harshly criticized comments that Netanyahu had made about Israeli Arabs “coming out in droves” to vote for his opponents.
Oren, the immediate past Israeli Ambassador to Washington and the current No. 4 on Israel’s Kulanu party’s list, said the White House’s harsh statements against Netanyahu pose a serious strategic threat to Israel’s international standing.
Oren said that “the shared democratic values between us and the United States are the pillars of the relationship between our two countries, and because of that, Obama’s words cause significant strategic harm” to Israel, referring to the Obama Administration’s accusation that Prime Minister Netanyahu engaged in “race baiting” on the eve of elections to win more votes for his Likud Party.
Ayalon, who served from 2002-2006 was harsher in his criticism, saying that the American president was “looking to dramatically deepen the rift with Israel.” Ayalon added that while Netanyahu had “purposefully extended [Obama] his hand after the elections,” and reiterated his support for a two-state solution, in order to repair relations with the United States, Obama was not responding in kind, Israel’s NRG reported.
Ayalon said, “what is Obama doing? Instead of acting in a measured way and understanding that at stake is a mutual interest in maintaining good relations, he slapped Netanyahu in the face. This is inappropriate behavior and unprecedented in international relations.”
Ayalon added that the American president’s actions will lead to a great crisis with Israel, and that “Obama is behaving childishly, and not like the leader of a great power ought to behave.” He alleged that Obama’s actions were motivated by “a personal desire to get back at Netanyahu for his speech to Congress and over the tensions that have arisen between him and the Prime Minister.”
Oren, who took a softer tack, also proposed an alternative to the American President’s hostile approach, saying that, “instead of making harsh comments, the US and Israel must once again concentrate on rebuilding the relationship.” He added that the “new Israeli government to be established must, without delay, work actively to repair the relationship with the United States, strengthen military, intelligence and diplomatic cooperation, in order to ensure the continuation of this strategic friendship that is so vital to Israel.”
Ayalon, however, was less optimistic, saying that, “unfortunately, there is not much that can be done because Israel does not have much leverage over Obama. He is nearing the end of his term, and he doesn’t owe anyone a single thing. So, he acts the way he wants.”
Oren emphasized that repairing US-Israel ties was mutually beneficial to both countries, not just Israel. He said that, “just as the United States is a strategic asset to Israel, Israel is also vital to the United States, and it has no alternative to its important friendship in the Middle East.”
Israel’s importance to America is a result of it being, “the only stable democracy in the Middle East, [and] one of the very few countries in the world that has not known a single day of non-democratic rule,” Oren added, noting that Israel “is the only State in the Middle East whose citizens are all entitled to vote without compulsion, even for parties that do not recognize the right of the State to exist,” he said, alluding to the Joint Arab List which is comprised of openly anti-Zionist parties.
Oren added that his own party, Kulanu, “will be the agent that will continue to fight for Israel’s democratic values, and not just because of the President’s statements, but because this is the what should be done.”