WORLD

Israel Lashes New Zealand Over Settlements Vote

Netanyahu has warned New Zealand it was 'declaring war'.

28/12/2016 3:14 PM AEDT | Updated 28/12/2016 8:12 PM AEDT
POOL New / Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office

A controversial United Nations resolution calling for Israel to cease building settlements on occupied Palestinian land has sparked a diplomatic spat between the small middle eastern country and New Zealand.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to have personally phoned New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully to warn him the UN resolution, which NZ co-sponsored, was being viewed as a "declaration of war".

  • The vote passed the 15-member Security Council on Friday.
  • The U.S. broke with its normal tactic of diplomatically shielding Israel and abstained, instead of vetoing, the vote.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised the Obama administration over what he called its "shameful" decision.
  • By Sunday, cabinet ministers were reportedly ordered to stop traveling to or meeting with officials of countries that voted in favour of the UN resolution.

Israel has reportedly withdrawn its ambassador to New Zealand and barred New Zealand's ambassador to Israel in the wake of the motion being passed by the UN on Sunday.

Undeterred by the defeat in the United Nations, Israel's government has said it will move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem.

In the wake of the vote, Jerusalem's municipal government has signalled it intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town, in what an official told The New York Times was the first of 5,600 new homes.

Israel has slowly expanded its controversial settlements over the years, and by the end of 2015 about 386,000 settlers lived in the West Bank.

Israel has claimed it has "hard" evidence that outgoing US President Barack Obama was behind the UN security council resolution. CNN has been told that Israel will suspend business operations with the embassies of the countries that were involved in the vote.

Among the countries are New Zealand, Britain, France, Russia and China.

Netanyahu will not meet with the foreign ministers of those countries and their ambassadors will not be received at Israel's Foreign Ministry, the officials are reported to have said.

The US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, was summoned by Netanyahu to explain why the US abstained instead of vetoing the vote.

In October Israel suspended cooperation with Unesco, after the UN cultural agency adopted a draft resolution that Israel has said denies the Jewish connection to historic holy sites in Jerusalem.

However, Israel may have a new friend in incoming US Ambassador, David Friedman -- a supporter of Israeli settlements and an opponent of Palestinian statehood.

During the US election campaign, Trump pledged to switch the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would bolster the city as Israel's capital despite international objections.

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