- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2016

A U.N. Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlement construction in areas Palestinians want for an independent state was delayed Thursday, hours after President-elect Donald Trump, several other prominent Republicans and Israel slammed the motion and called on the Obama administration to veto it.

Egypt, which had worked with the Palestinians to draft a resolution and propose it to the Security Council, reportedly moved to postpone the vote after behind-the-scenes pressure from Israel, whose leaders were wary that the Obama administration might embrace the motion as a last-ditch stand against the Jewish settlements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter on Wednesday night to call on the U.S. to “veto the anti-Israel resolution.”

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi then told his nation’s U.N. mission to postpone the vote after Israel made a specific request for a delay, two sources familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency. Any council member can propose a draft resolution and then postpone a vote on it.

While the diplomatic back-and-forth was playing out Thursday, Mr. Trump put his weight behind Mr. Netanyahu, asserting that the resolution “should be vetoed.”

“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,” said Mr. Trump, arguing that the resolution “puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

Mr. Netanyahu and other conservative Israeli leaders have praised the U.S. election victory of Mr. Trump, whose statement Thursday appeared in line with the views of David Friedman, the president-elect’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Shift coming under Trump?

Israeli news reports describe Mr. Friedman as a trial lawyer in New York who is an Orthodox Jew and resides part time in Israel. He is widely seen as a staunch supporter of Israeli settlements, having helped raise millions of dollars for the West Bank’s Beit El settlement in recent years.

Mr. Friedman and his family have long-standing connections Beit El, to which Mr. Trump’s foundation has donated, according to a report this week by The Wall Street Journal.

An Aug. 2 op-ed that Mr. Friedman wrote for the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva, meanwhile, argued against the “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“There has never been a ‘two-state solution’ — only a ‘two-state narrative,’” Mr. Friedman wrote, adding that “even the narrative itself now needs to end [because it] serves the worst intentions of both the United States and the Palestinian Arabs.”

Successive U.S. administrations, including that of President Obama, have sought to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the pursuit of a two-state solution. The most recent talks broke down in 2014.

The period since has been one of on-again, off-again Israeli-Palestinian violence. Although clashes have tapered off in recent months, there was concern that the hype of the Security Council resolution could renew tension.

The Israeli military said Thursday that its forces had fatally shot a Palestinian who was lobbing an explosive device at troops carrying out an operation in East Jerusalem. The forces were demolishing the home of a Palestinian who carried out an October attack in Jerusalem that killed a police officer and a civilian.

An Associated Press report Thursday noted that Palestinians and most of the international community say the expansion of Israeli settlements is endangering the goal of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The report also noted that Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama have clashed repeatedly over Israel’s settlements and that some 600,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas the Palestinians want as part of a future state, along with the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces captured those territories in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel also effectively annexed east Jerusalem — home to sensitive religious sites — in a move that was not internationally recognized. The West Bank remains divided between autonomous Palestinian zones and Israeli-controlled territory.

A Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem would present the Obama administration with a chance to take a stand on the issue before the president leaves office next month.

But diplomats said Thursday that no time frame has been put forward for a vote on the resolution and that it could be put off indefinitely.

As drafted, the motion would demand an immediate halt to Israeli settlement-building on Israeli-occupied territory in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. It also said Israel’s construction of settlements has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law,” according to Reuters.

U.S. lawmakers weigh in

For a Security Council resolution to be adopted as international law, it would need nine of the council’s 15 member nations to vote for it and could not be vetoed by the U.S., France, Russia, Britain or China — the council’s five permanent members.

In past years, Mr. Obama has refused to endorse anti-Israel resolutions put before the U.N. Security Council, arguing that such motions won’t help negotiations aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Republican lawmakers, as well as some Democrats, argued Thursday that Mr. Obama would be unwise to break with that policy during his final days in office.

“It has long been the position of the United States to oppose one-sided or anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce, California Republican.

“That’s what this is, and the Obama administration should veto it,” he said. “A durable and sustainable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will come only through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties.”

Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat, agreed. She said the administration should veto the motion and “uphold long-standing U.S. policy of defending Israel against one-sided resolutions.”

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be internationalized,” Ms. Lowey said. “Only the parties themselves can resolve their complicated differences through direct negotiations.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said “the path to peace does not run through the United Nations, but through strengthening the U.S.-Israeli relationship, bolstering Israel’s security, and direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said the “Obama administration should be ashamed for not immediately signaling our intent to veto this resolution and any others like it, which should be emphatically and unconditionally opposed by all member states who value our alliance with Israel.”

S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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