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article imageUN Security Council postpones vote on Israeli settlements

By Carole LANDRY (AFP)     Dec 22, 2016 in World

The UN Security Council on Thursday postponed a vote on a draft resolution demanding that Israel halt its settlement activities as President-elect Donald Trump weighed in and said the United States should veto the measure.

Egypt requested the delay a day after it had submitted the draft text to the council, a move that triggered immediate calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a US veto to block the resolution.

A similar resolution was vetoed by the United States in 2011, and it remained unclear whether Washington would shift its stance this time, possibly abstaining to allow the measure to pass, but without US support.

"Israelis deeply appreciate one of the great pillars of the US-Israel alliance: the willingness over many years of the United States to stand up in the UN and veto anti-Israel resolutions," Netanyahu said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

"I hope the US won't abandon this policy."

Israel launched a frantic lobbying effort to pressure Egypt to drop the bid and reached out to its supporters in the United States and at the Security Council for support.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said his government was deploying "diplomatic efforts on all fronts to ensure that this disgraceful resolution will not pass in the Security Council."

A UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the Israeli lobbying effort as a "diplomatic World War III."

- Trump calls for US veto -

Trump, who campaigned on a promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, said Washington should use its veto to block the resolution.

A Palestinian protestor in front of the Israeli settlement of Qadumim (Kedumim)  near Nablus  in the...
A Palestinian protestor in front of the Israeli settlement of Qadumim (Kedumim), near Nablus, in the occupied West Bank on December 9, 2016
Jaafar Ashtiyeh, AFP

"The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed," he said in a statement.

"As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations," he said.

"This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis."

Arab ambassadors held an emergency meeting at the United Nations to try to shore up the diplomatic push and press Egypt to move ahead with a vote on the draft resolution.

The ambassadors recommended that an Arab League committee meeting in Cairo on Thursday decide to hold a vote, said Palestinian Ambassador Riyadh Mansour.

"We have a text and we need the Security Council to act on it," he said.

Mansour said Trump's call for a veto was in response to pressure from the Israeli prime minister. "He is acting on behalf of Netanyahu," he said.

No new date or time was scheduled for action on the resolution, but diplomats said the vote could happen on Friday, depending on the outcome of the meeting in Cairo.

Trump has chosen as ambassador to Israel the hardliner David Friedman, who has said Washington will not pressure Israel to curtail settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

- Saving the two-state solution -

Israeli settlements are seen as a major stumbling block to peace efforts, as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Under the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  settlement construction has surge...
Under the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, settlement construction has surged with some 15,000 settlers moving into the West Bank over the past year alone

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

The draft resolution demands that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

It states that Israeli settlements have "no legal validity" and are "dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution" that would see an independent Palestine co-exist alongside Israel.

The text stresses that halting settlements was "essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground."

UN diplomats have for weeks speculated over whether the administration of President Barack Obama would refrain from using its veto.

Obama's administration has expressed mounting anger over the continued expansion of the Jewish outposts and speculation has grown that he could launch a final initiative before leaving.

Under Netanyahu's government, settlement construction has surged with some 15,000 settlers moving into the West Bank over the past year alone.

The United States joined the European Union, the United Nations and Russia in calling for a halt to Jewish settlements in a report released in October by the so-called diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East.

The report was to serve as the basis for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process which has been comatose since a US initiative collapsed in April 2014.

Working to re-launch the peace process, France set January 15 as the date for an international conference to restart talks and "reaffirm the necessity of having two states," Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.

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