Israeli Ambassador Says U.S. Behind Settlement Resolution
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The Israeli government is furious with the U.S. for not vetoing a U.N. security resolution last week. The resolution calls Israeli West Bank settlements a flagrant violation of international law, and it calls a halt to settlement activity essential for salvaging the two-state solution with the Palestinians. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel has what he called ironclad information that the Obama administration really helped push this resolution and helped craft it. He cited international sources and sources in the Arab world.
Israel's ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, said that his country will present that evidence to the Trump administration through the appropriate channels. And Ambassador Dermer joins us. Welcome to the program once again.
RON DERMER: Good to be with you.
SIEGEL: If Israel isn't going to publicly cite its sources and specify what it says the U.S. did, why was that statement about ironclad information made on Sunday?
DERMER: Well, I think we wanted to make clear why we're so upset by what happened. But it's an old story that the U.N. is just a cesspool of anti-Israel activity. What's new is that the United States doesn't stand up to anti-Israel efforts. But I suppose what is particularly outrageous is the U.S. helped orchestrate behind the scenes. And as I said yesterday, we will present it in the appropriate channels to the new administration. And I'm sure that that information will ultimately get out. But this...
SIEGEL: You speak of appropriate channels, though. I mean, Israel is reported to have gone to Donald Trump as president-elect and urged him to call for a veto, which he did. No one sees that as appropriate channels. Do you?
DERMER: Well, I actually think it's quite appropriate. What is inappropriate is for an outgoing administration in its waning days to radically change American foreign policy. That I'm not sure has ever happened. If President Bush, in the waning days of his presidency, had decided to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, to recognize Israel's annexation of the settlement blocks and maybe the Golan Heights to boot, I'm pretty sure that people would not have been saying, hey, you know, there's one president at a time. We...
SIEGEL: You know that President Reagan opened up talks with the PLO as the administration was on the way out, in its waning days. And that was then U.S. policy. But that...
DERMER: Yeah, but you know that the person who was the president-elect was his own vice president. So it wasn't done...
SIEGEL: Yes, but that's really not - but isn't that really not for Israel to decide, which - you know, there's an American president in office. He gets to exercise policy.
DERMER: Yeah, but American presidents usually will speak to their successors about dramatic policy changes. And in this case, we had no choice but to turn to the president-elect. And we're deeply appreciative that he weighed in because this is not just a blow to us. It's a blow to his policy and how he would like to advance peace in the region moving forward. And that's something that I think a lot of people don't understand.
SIEGEL: U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, in her speech before abstaining, recited all the ways in which the administration has helped and stood up for Israel at the U.N. But she said in 2011, the U.S. vetoed a resolution that focused on - exclusively on settlements. And since that time, settlement activity has increased and no progress has been made toward a two-state solution.
DERMER: Well, it's not - it's not been...
SIEGEL: First, would you disagree with that diagnosis?
DERMER: They have given the Palestinians exactly what they want. Their strategy is to avoid negotiations because in negotiations, you have to actually do a give-and-take. The Palestinians don't want it. They want to internationalize the conflict to put pressure on Israel to take unilateral steps to withdraw and to essentially turn Israel into a pariah state.
SIEGEL: Well, the criticism the other way is that Israel wants to take unilateral steps and wants to preempt any international action by taking what it wants on the West Bank.
DERMER: No, our policy has been very clear from the beginning, that we are prepared to negotiate a resolution to this conflict. And all of those issues should be resolved around the negotiating table.
SIEGEL: But - well, what do you say to someone who's listening to this right now and saying, look, the president of the United States has powers to make foreign policy and to take actions in international bodies? That's not your business. That's just not Israel's business.
DERMER: It's not business - so the life of Israel and the survival of Israel is not my business? And if the president of the United States decides to make a nuclear deal with Iran, a nuclear deal that ultimately paves the path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon that's going to empower them with hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade to use in their terror war against Israel, that's not Israel's business? Of course it's Israel's business. Of course we're going to make our case.
DERMER: Ultimately, the decision will be of the president of the United States. But we are a sovereign nation with a right to be heard.
SIEGEL: The Obama administration flatly denies that it orchestrated the U.N. Security Council resolution. Are they lying when they say that?
DERMER: It is not true, and hopefully you'll invite me back on your show when all that evidence is presented and through the appropriate channels. And then you can invite me back on your show, and we'll have a discussion about it.
SIEGEL: Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer. Thank you for talking with us.
DERMER: Thank you.
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