Israel Curtails Ties With 10 Countries Over U.N. Settlements Vote

Image: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting
Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on Dec. 11, 2016.Abir Sultan / Pool via AP, file

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By Paul Goldman and F. Brinley Bruton

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel on Tuesday curtailed relations with 10 countries that voted in favor of a recent U.N. Security Council resolution condemning settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The United States broke with past practice by allowing the Security Council to pass the measure that called settlement building on land claimed by the Palestinians a "flagrant violation" of international law, sparking fury in Israel.

In a statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Israel was limiting its "work contacts with the 10 relevant embassies here, as well as travels of officials from Israel to those countries ... until otherwise decided."

Related: What Are Israeli Settlements and Why Do They Matter?

These countries were Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay and Spain, said Nahshon.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank along with east Jerusalem — home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians — as parts of their future state. Israel says settlement activities in the territories, which were captured by Israel in the 1967 war, should be agreed upon in future peace talks.

A construction site in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, in the occupied West Bank on Dec. 22, 2016.Baz Ratner / Reuters

Israel was also reportedly advancing plans for thousands of new homes in east Jerusalem despite the recent U.N. vote. According to daily Israel Hayom, Jerusalem District Zoning Committee was convening Wednesday to discuss approving fresh construction in that part of the city.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the White House after the U.N. vote.

"We have no doubt the Obama administration initiated it (the resolution), stood behind it, coordinated the wording and demanded it be passed," Netanyahu told the cabinet in comments released publicly on Sunday.

Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on Dec. 11, 2016.Abir Sultan / Pool via AP, file

His government also summoned the U.S. ambassador to Israel to discuss the U.S. abstention. Relations between the U.S. and Israel grew steadily icier over the course of Obama's presidency.

Another official said Netanyahu had ordered that for the coming three weeks, until President-elect Donald Trump takes office, cabinet ministers refrain from traveling to or meeting officials of countries that voted in favor of the resolution.

Trump waded into the debate Monday, questioning the United Nation's effectiveness, saying it's just a club for people to "have a good time."

Trump's tweet that the U.N. has "such great potential," but it has become "just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!"

Trump's tweet about the U.N. ignored much of the work that goes on in the 193-member global organization.

The Security Council has approved over 70 legally binding resolutions this year, including new sanctions on North Korea and measures tackling conflicts and authorizing the U.N.'s peacekeeping operations around the world. The General Assembly has also approved dozens of resolutions on issues, like the role of diamonds in fueling conflicts; condemned human rights abuses in Iran and North Korea; and authorized an investigation of alleged war crimes in Syria.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed.