Former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has admitted that he asked Russia to delay a UN vote seen as damaging to Israel, but diplomats say it was not the only country he and presidential adviser Jared Kushner lobbied.
In the hours before the vote by the 15-member United Nations Security Council on December 23, Flynn also phoned the UN missions of Uruguay and Malaysia, and Kushner spoke with Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the United States, according to diplomats familiar with the conversations, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The lobbying took place before Republican President Donald Trump, who was known for his pro-Israel campaign rhetoric, took office on January 20. It failed, with the Security Council adopting a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on land Palestinians want for an independent state. The vote was 14 in favour and one abstention by the US.
The efforts made on Israel’s behalf capped several days of unusual diplomacy. In a surprise December 21 move, Egypt had called for a vote the next day on the draft resolution, prompting both Trump and Israel to urge Washington to veto the text.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters that Israeli officials contacted Trump’s transition team at a ‘high level’ to ask for help after failing to persuade Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration to veto the draft UN resolution.
According to court documents made public on Friday, a member of Trump’s presidential transition team, later identified by sources as Trump’s son-in-law Kushner, told Flynn on December 22 to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to convince them to delay the vote or veto the resolution.
Flynn spoke with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak that day, and again the following day, according to the court documents.
Also on December 22, Trump discussed the resolution with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Egypt withdrew the text from a council vote the same day.
The 1799 Logan Act bars unauthorised private US citizens, which Trump, Flynn, and Kushner all were at the time, from negotiating with foreign governments. However, only two Americans have ever been indicted for allegedly violating it – in 1802 and 1852 – and neither was convicted.
Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Friday about Israel or other issues.