U.S. protests Israel’s refusal to back UN resolution condemning Russia

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U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield protested to her Israeli counterpart over Israel’s refusal to join 87 countries in backing a U.S.-led resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the UN Security Council on Friday, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Israel has attempted to maintain good relations with both Russia and Ukraine during the crisis, and has even offered to serve as a mediator. But that fence-sitting has resulted in criticism from both sides and now from the U.S.

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  • The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry had been claiming for weeks that the Biden administration understood Israel’s need to calibrate its reaction to the Russian invasion in order to maintain its security coordination with Russia in Syria.

  • But Israel dragged its feet as the U.S. was gathering co-sponsors for the resolution and did not provide a clear answer before the meeting began.

  • After the vote, which Russia vetoed, Thomas Greenfield passed a message to the Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan stressing the Biden administration’s disappointment.

Driving the news: 11 Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, three (China, the United Arab Emirates and India) abstained, and while Russia’s was the lone “no” vote.

  • An Israeli foreign ministry official said the decision not to accept the U.S. request to co-sponsor the resolution was due to the fact that Israel is not a member of the UN Security Council and it was clear Russia would veto.

  • Most close U.S. allies and partners did back the resolution, however.

Data: UN; Map: Axios Visuals

Behind the scenes: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told Israel’s Security Cabinet on Sunday that the U.S. “contained” the Israeli refusal to join the resolution.

  • “We speak to the Biden administration in a wide range of channels on various aspects of the Ukrainian issue and the bottom line is that our partners are well aware of our considerations,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat told Axios.

  • The U.S. mission to the UN declined to comment.

What’s next: The UN General Assembly is expected to convene as early as Monday to vote on a resolution condemning Russia. Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid told the Cabinet on Sunday that Israel will vote in favor.

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