UK sides with Trump, Australia hints at support over Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech in his Jerusalem office December 28, 2016.
Baz Ratner | Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's relationship with its traditional ally, the U.S., took a rocky turn earlier this month following the passing of a UN Resolution which demanded an end to Israel's settlement building on Palestinian territory.

The U.S. abstained from its vote at the UN Security Council rather than vetoing the motion, and in the furore that followed Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Netanyahu's coalition as "the most right-wing in Israeli history."

But, while 14 out of the 15 UN Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution on December 23, Netanyahu's position may not be as isolated as it initially seemed.

Though Britain voted for the resolution, a spokesman for U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement Thursday afternoon that, "we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally."

He added that, "the (U.K.) Government believes that negotiations (between Israelis and Palestinians) will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community." The spokesman also said that peace would not be established "by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements," considering that the conflict was "so deeply complex."

John Kerry: Israel threatening Middle East Peace process

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department is widely quoted as saying that they were "surprised" by the U.K.'s statement.

U.K.-based media reported earlier this week that the country's ambassador to the U.S., Sir Kim Darroch, had suggested that May and U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump's budding relationship could "build on the legacy" of former leaders Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Netanyahu may have additional support from further afield. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement released Thursday that "in voting at the UN, the (Australian) Coalition Government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel."

Bishop pressed both sides of the debate to "resume direct negotiations for a two-state solution as soon as possible."

Australia does not currently have a seat on the UN Security Council. But its neighbor New Zealand does, voting alongside the majority of its counterparts in favor of the resolution. Netanyahu is reported by Israeli media to have contacted New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully prior to the vote, describing support for the resolution as a "declaration of war."

Trump has voiced his support for Netanyahu, tweeting "stay strong Israel" in the light of the latter's ongoing feud with the Obama administration over the vote. Netanyahu thanked Trump via Twitter for his "warm friendship."

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