Middle East

White House denies report Kerry discussed UN Israel measure with Palestinian official

Reaction from veteran United Nations watcher Claudia Rosett

 

The White House vehemently denied a report Wednesday morning claiming Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice discussed the controversial U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements with a top Palestinian official days before Friday’s Security Council vote.

An Egyptian news site first published what it claimed to be details of the meeting with Palestinian official Saeb Erekat and others. According to multiple accounts in Israeli media, the documents show the U.S. officials discussing the draft resolution with the delegation and agreeing to cooperate.

Ned Price, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, denied the claims in an early-morning tweet. He called the reports a “fabrication” and said the “meeting never occurred.”

The State Department’s own website reflects that Kerry was scheduled for a meeting with Erekat at the State Department on Dec. 12, around the time of the reported discussions. The official website, however, offers no details on what was discussed. 

The reports came ahead of a major address from Kerry on the U.S. vision for Middle East peace. Kerry in that speech staunchly defended the United States’ decision to abstain on Friday’s U.N. Security Council vote, which allowed the measure to pass. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in response, called the address "skewed" and reiterated that his government has “absolutely incontestable evidence” that the U.S. organized and advanced the resolution.

Further, he referred to the details reported in Egyptian media as the “tip of the iceberg.” 

Israeli officials say they have “ironclad” evidence the U.S. was behind or closely involved in the resolution push.

“We have that evidence … we’re going to present it to the new administration, and if they choose to share it with the American people, that’ll be their choice,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told Fox News’ “Special Report.” “It’s very clear that the U.S. orchestrated that.”

He said an Israeli minister heard “directly” that Vice President Biden intervened to get Ukraine to support the resolution and added, “The evidence we have is much greater than that.” 

The White House, though, has sought to explain its abstention as rooted in concerns that the settlements themselves undermine the peace process. Spokesman Eric Schultz also pushed back on allegations they orchestrated the vote.

“The US did not draft this resolution nor did the US introduce this resolution,” he said in a statement. “The Egyptians, in partnership with the Palestinians, are the ones who began circulating an earlier draft of the resolution. The Egyptians are the ones who moved it forward on Friday. And we took the position that we did when it was put to a vote." 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.