The passage of a 2016 UN security council resolution that blasted Israel for building West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements was “shameful” and a dark diplomatic chapter between Israel and the U.S., according to Israel’s former UN ambassador in an interview with The Hub.
“It was the hardest moment in my public service. It was a very challenging moment,” said Danny Danon, about the resolution that passed in December of 2016, while Donald Trump was president-elect and Barack Obama was preparing to leave public office. As he waited to take office, Trump tried to get the resolution withdrawn, while the Obama administration chose to abstain on the vote, allowing the resolution to pass.
“It was a shameful resolution, and also the way it was done. It was done covertly. Instead of telling us about the policy of the U.S., basically, the U.S. walked behind our backs,” said Danon, in a recent interview with The Hub.
“And for me, you know, I’m used to fighting with our adversaries, the Palestinians, the EU, sometimes, but not fighting against the U.S.,” he said.
In his recently published book, In the Lion’s Den: Israel and the World, Danon describes the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of the Obama administration as “cowardly,” and accuses the U.S. of using proxies to get the resolution through. The U.S. abstained on the resolution, but Danon believes they were encouraging other countries, such as Ukraine, to vote in favour of it.
“And I think, for Obama, it was a combination of his desire to show Netanyahu that he had the upper hand before he left, and also, he wanted to cement his legacy. I think it was a mistake,” said Danon.
Until resolution 2334 was passed, the Israeli-U.S. relationship at the UN was mostly positive, Danon writes. Danon was elected as chairman of the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee, the first time an Israeli was put in charge of a permanent committee at the General Assembly, and he largely credits the U.S. with making it possible.
As far as the UN itself, Danon doesn’t have much nice to say, although he described it as a “very important institution” that has lost its way in recent decades.
“Unfortunately, what we have seen in the last few decades is that hostile forces kidnap the UN agencies, and it became a platform to supporting non-democratic nations and actually attacking strong democracies like Israel. So, we need to change the UN,” said Danon.
“I found that the UN is a very hostile place for the Israeli ambassador,” he said.
Danon said his strategy to “dilute” the work of countries hostile to Israel at the UN was to energetically bring other issues, like culture and religion, to the table and try to provoke other discussions. He also took other ambassadors on tours of his country, which he said gave them a new perspective on it.
The foreword for Danon’s book was written by former U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley who wrote that she wanted to prioritize Israel at the UN because, with resolution 2334, “America had abandoned Israel at the UN.”
Danon writes glowingly of Donald Trump and his government and it’s clear from his book that the relationship between the two countries drastically improved when Obama left office.
“President Trump’s decisions about pulling out from the Iran deal, moving the embassy, those were very important decisions that we will always be grateful for them,” said Danon, in his interview with The Hub.
Trump quickly turned on Netanyahu after the 2020 U.S. presidential election when Netanyahu congratulated Joe Biden on his electoral victory.
While he has been an ever-present force in the Likud Party for decades, Danon has also been a constant thorn in Netanyahu’s side, running against him in leadership votes and even getting fired as deputy defence minister for criticizing Israel’s strategy in the 2014 Gaza War.
Late last month the Israeli parliament voted to dissolve itself, triggering the country’s fifth election in four years. Israelis will head to the polls on November 1.