Israel cuts aid to Senegal over U.N. settlement vote

MASHAV’s expert Tammy Erann-Soussan poses with farmers in Senegal during a workshop on organization and management of farmers’ associations and irrigation techniques. (MSHAV/Facebook)

The Israeli government followed through on its pledge to punish countries for voting to condemn settlement building in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It canceled a planned visit by Senegalese Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye, recalled its ambassadors and cut aid to the West African nation for sponsoring the resolution.

Co-sponsor New Zealand was also punished after the Dec. 23 vote. The resolution was adopted by the U.N. Security Council with a 14 to 0 vote and the U.S. the lone abstaining country. The passage angered the Israeli government and it supporters.

“Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. and will not abide by its terms,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement reacting to the vote. “At a time when the Security Council does nothing to stop the slaughter of half a million people in Syria, it disgracefully gangs up on the one true democracy in the Middle East, Israel, and calls the Western Wall ‘occupied territory.’ ”

The U.S. was criticized for not acting to veto the resolution. Other powerful nations, including Russia and China, that voted for the resolution emerged unscathed. Israel focused its retaliatory punishment on co-sponsors Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela. Malaysia and Venezuela were spared because they do not have relationships with Israel.

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Senegal was hit hardest. The long relationship dates back a half-century. Numerous Israeli leaders and high-level officials have visited the country over the years. Netanyahu personally invited Senegalese President Macky Sall to visit Israel.

MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, provided agriculture assistance in Senegal. It has touted its successes in the country over the years by celebrating the successful projects supported and strong partnership between the two countries. A March story in The Jerusalem Post highlighted the exceptionally strong relationship between Senegal and Israel.

“Senegal is unique in its relations with Israel because it is a Muslim country, has a seat on the U.N. Security Council and chairs the U.N.’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. That means it is perfectly positioned as a kind of bridge between Israel and the Arab and Muslim states,” according to the story.

That unique relationship is apparently severed over the U.N. resolution. Senegal was one of seven priority countries for MASHAV in Africa. It is unclear how much aid money Israel spends in Senegal each year, but the split is important given the special relationship that went beyond development assistance.

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Human Rights groups have long criticized the Israeli practice of building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Oxfam severed its ties with actress and ambassador Scarlett Johansson due to her relationship with SodaStream, a company that operated a factory in the West Bank settlement.

For years, the Israeli government continued building settlements without significant international pushback. Despite the U.S. not voting for the resolution, standing aside to let it pass and a strong statement opposing the settlements by ambassador Samantha Power signaled a change in U.S.-Israeli relations. She quoted former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in her remarks to the Security Council.

“The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated,” Reagan said in 1982.

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.