Photo Credit: The Official White House Photostream via Wikimedia
Former US President Barack Obama chairs a United Nations Security Council meeting

President-Elect Donald Trump engaged in his first act as leader of the free world on Thursday, when his tweet stopped the game clock on an Egyptian anti-settlements UN Security Council resolution.

It began Wednesday night, when the Egyptian UN mission distributed among the UNSC members an anti-settlements resolution, asking for a Thursday 1 PM NY time vote. This, according to an Ha’aretz report Friday morning, came as a complete surprise to the Netanyahu government, where the expectations had been that, one, the anticipated resolution would be Palestinian via the good services of New Zealand, and, two, that it won’t happen this week.

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Jerusalem received no advance notice from the El-Sisi regime – Netanyahu received the alert only after the fact at 3 AM Thursday Israel time, evening time in NYC. That’s when he rushed to tweet: “The US should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday.”

What ensued was a worldwide diplomatic race involving Israel’s Foreign Ministry, National Security Council (NSC), and Netanyahu himself, who deleted his entire agenda for Thursday to focus on blocking the UNSC resolution. The PM’s aim was to rouse pressure from Israel’s friends in Washington on President Obama to postpone the vote, or, if need be, follow decades of US administrations when it came to anti-Israeli UNSC resolutions and veto the damned thing. The working assumption at the time was that the Egyptians were in synch with the White House on the resolution, and that Obama was planning to abstain, assuring its passage. According to Ha’aretz, in Ramallah the PA were also convinced that the US would not vote against. Also, Secretary of State John Kerry scheduled a major speech on his vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace in our time just hours before the UNSC vote – was that a dead giveaway or what? The Israeli diplomatic effort was truly heroic: in addition to Netanyahu’s call on Obama to veto the resolution, a senior Israeli official briefed foreign correspondents that Israel expects the US to uphold its policy of many years, across administrations, that negotiations must be direct. An American failure to veto would be a breach of its commitment. It would mean the abandoning of a traditional position moments before the change of administrations. Israel also applied pressure on Egypt to rescind its resolution, suggesting the move would harm their good relationship with the Jewish State, including the security cooperation between the two countries. There’s a lot at stake there, most notably the fact that the Egyptian military presence in the Sinai, a vital component in El-Sisi’s war against his Islamist foes at home, depends on Israel’s consent, as per the 1978 Camp David agreement. Apparently, those efforts, intense and heroic as they may have been, did not result in either a postponement or an American promise to veto. At which point Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer called up President-Elect Donald Trump’s circle of close advisors asking for help. And they, at last, delivered, establishing, perhaps for the first time in the history of US foreign policy, that a president-in-waiting was able to reverse a sitting president’s decision, through the good services of Twitter.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016

“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed…” Trump twitted, inviting his followers to read his full message on Facebook, said message going: “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

At which point the Egyptians finally got the message, namely that they could face a hostile US Administration come January 20, should they defy Trump’s Tweet. The Egyptian mission quickly rescinded their proposal, saying they needed to discuss it with other members of the Arab League. This, according to Egyptian media, either followed or came just before a call Trump had with President El-Sisi. The latter’s spokesman then stated: “The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new U.S. administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement.”

“The presidents agreed,” got it?

Netanyahu, for his part, had a heart to heart phone conversation with Sec. Kerry, who cancelled his vision speech.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported Thursday night that the US had, indeed, intended to allow the UNSC to approve a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building, and that the resolution is far from being dead in the water. New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal are now pushing Egypt to resubmit the resolution, threatening that “in the event that Egypt decides that it cannot proceed to call for a vote on 23 December or does not provide a response by the deadline, those delegations reserve the right to table the draft … and proceed to put it to vote ASAP.”

The State Department would not comment on the reports of its plan to abstain. It’s going to be a busy weekend for Israeli diplomats everywhere – and there may be another tweet from the President-Elect.

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