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Ukraine didn't attend UN vote on Israeli occupation after Netanyahu called Zelensky

Axios World logo: MainLogo Axios World 12/31/2022 Barak Ravid
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call late Friday asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to vote against a UN General Assembly resolution that calls on the International Court of Justice to issue a legal opinion on the consequences of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories, Ukrainian and Israeli officials told Axios.

The big picture: Ukraine had voted in favor of the resolution during a UN committee vote but did not attend Friday's General Assembly vote "in order to give a chance to the relationship with Netanyahu," the Ukrainian official said.

Catch up quick: The UN General Assembly approved the resolution late Friday, with 87 countries voting in favor, 24 countries voting against and 53 countries abstaining.

  • According to the resolution, the ICJ will draft an advisory opinion on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank — a process that could take between one to two years.
  • The opinion should address the legal consequences of Israel's "occupation, settlement and annexation ... including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem," the resolution reads.
  • The opinion should also address the question of “how the policies and practices of Israel affect the legal status of the occupation, and what are the legal consequences that arise for all States and the United Nations from this status."
  • Ukraine defied Israeli requests to vote against the resolution during the UN committee vote several weeks ago because of Israel's refusal to provide military assistance to Ukraine, Ukrainian officials had said.
  • Israeli foreign ministry officials were furious at the time and summoned the Ukrainian ambassador for a tough conversation.

Behind the scenes: Netanyahu, who was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, called Zelensky as part of a series of phone calls with leaders of some countries that had previously voted in favor of the resolution. Israel wanted them to change their votes and oppose the resolution or at least abstain, a senior Israeli official told Axios.

  • During the call with Netanyahu, Zelensky said that in exchange for voting against the resolution or abstaining, he wanted to hear how the new Israeli government would change its policy and provide Ukraine with defense systems against Russian attacks using ballistic missiles and Iranian-made drones, a Ukrainian official told Axios.
  • The Ukrainian official said Netanyahu didn’t commit to anything but said he was ready to discuss Zelensky’s requests in the future.
  • According to the Ukrainian official, Zelensky didn’t like the answer and didn’t agree to vote against the resolution or abstain. Instead, he instructed Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN to not attend the vote.

What they're saying: “The two leaders weren’t satisfied and didn’t get what they wanted. Zelensky decided that we will not attend the vote in order to give a chance to the relationship with Netanyahu," the Ukrainian official said.

  • A senior Israeli official said that even though Ukraine didn’t vote in favor of the resolution, Israel was disappointed that instead of abstaining, Kyiv decided not to attend the vote.
  • Netanyahu’s office told Axios: "Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to President Zelensky, and Ukraine which vote before in favor of the anti-Israeli resolution, didn’t attend the vote this time. Other than that we will not comment on diplomatic conversations."
  • Zelensky tweeted on Saturday that in the two leaders' phone call, he "congratulated Netanyahu on taking office as Prime Minister. We discussed bilateral cooperation between our states, including in the security sphere and interaction on international platforms. We also touched on the implementation of the Ukrainian peace formula."

Go deeper: Ukraine officially asks Israel for Iron Dome, other defense systems

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