US denies meeting with Palestinians on UN resolution against Israeli settlements


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Obama administration denied an Egyptian report that top U.S. officials met with Palestinian leaders in support of the United Nations Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements passed last week.

“This is a total fabrication,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price tweeted Wednesday in reference to a Hebrew translation of the Egyptian story published in Israel. “This meeting never occurred.”

“Claims cited in your piece are wrong. No such meeting took place,” State Department spokesman John Kirby tweeted at The Times of Israel Wednesday about its story on the Egyptian report.

Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday that the meeting took place, but called the purported transcript “lies and half-truths,” according to the official Palestinian Authority Wafa news agency.

“They were leaked to serve Netanyahu and Liberman’s wars against the international community who championed international law and considered all of Israel’s, the occupying power, dictates and settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in East Jerusalem, illegal and a gross violation of international law,” Erekat reportedly said, speaking about the Israeli prime minister and defense minister.

Al-Youm Al-Sabea published what it said was a transcript from the meeting in which Secretary of State John Kerry tells Erekat that the United States is prepared to cooperate with the Palestinians at the Security Council. The Egyptian newspaper report said National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Majed Faraj, director of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service, were also present at the meeting.

Kerry was quoted as saying he could present his idea for a final status solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which he is scheduled to do Wednesday — if the Palestinians pledge to support his proposed framework. The U.S. officials are quoted advising the Palestinians to present the plan to Saudi Arabian leaders in Riyadh.

A readout from the State Department earlier this month confirmed that Erekat and Kerry had met, but Price said “a tripartite meeting with Kerry, Rice and Erekat never occurred,” according to The Times of Israel.

The Obama administration has denied any role in bringing the Security Council resolution to a vote. The U.S. abstained and did not veto the resolution Friday, allowing it to pass in a 14-0 vote. The resolution calls for a halt to all settlement construction, including in the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, calling it a “flagrant violation under international law” that was “dangerously imperiling the viability” of a peace deal creating a Palestinian state.

“We did not draft this resolution. We did not introduce this resolution. We made this decision when it came up for a vote,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said Friday, adding that the U.S. “could not in good conscience veto” because of its opposition to settlement activity and concern for what it could mean for the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has responded with rhetorical and diplomatic fireworks to the resolution,  has accused the Obama administration of being involved.

“The Obama administration not only failed to defend Israel from this harassment at the U.N., it cooperated with it behind the scenes,” the Israeli leader said Friday.

Netanyahu spokesman David Keys added Tuesday: “We have ironclad information that emanates from sources in the Arab world and that shows the Obama administration helped craft this resolution and pushed hard for its eventual passage.”

In a related controversy, the U.S. and Ukraine denied reports that either Obama or Vice President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to pressure him to support the Security Council resolution.

Tablet Magazine reported Biden made the call, citing a “highly placed” Israeli official.

“Did Biden put pressure on the Ukrainians? Categorically yes,” the source told Tablet. “That Biden told them to do it is 1,000 percent true.”

Another senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Wednesday that either Obama or Biden “spoke to Poroshenko about the matter.”

Both the U.S. and Ukraine have acknowledged Poroshenko and Biden spoke by phone on Dec. 19, several days before the vote. But U.S. officials denied there was any discussion of the resolution.

Biden’s national security adviser, Colin Kahl, tweeted about the Tablet story: “All seems to be 1 unnamed Israeli source & the story is just wrong. The VP did not engage on the issue.”

A spokesperson for Poroshenko would not confirm or deny that Biden lobbied the president on the issue, according to Tablet.

Recommended from JTA