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 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 the Obama administration might embrace the motion as a last-ditch stand against the Israeli 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 al-Sisi then told Egypt’s U.N. mission to postpone the vote after a specific request for a delay was made by Israel, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Any council member can propose a draft resolution, and then have power to postpone a vote on it.
Diplomats said there was no time frame for when the current resolution vote may now occur and that it could be put off indefinitely, according to The Associated Press.
While the diplomatic back-and-forth was still playing out Thursday, Mr. Trump put his weight behind Mr. Netanyahu, asserting in a statement that the resolution “should be vetoed.”
As drafted, the motion would have demanded an immediate halt to Israeli settlement-building on Israeli-occupied territory in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
“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, who argued 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, who’s statement on Thursday appeared in line with the views of David Friedman, whom the president-elect recently named as his nominee to become Washington’s ambassador to Israel.
Israeli news reports have described Mr. Friedman as an Orthodox Jew who already occasionally resides in Israel, despite also being a trial lawyer in New York. An Aug. 2 op-ed that Mr. Friedman penned for the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva argued firmly against the idea of a so-called “two-state solution” to the decades old 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 toward which effectively broke down in 2014.
An AP report on 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.
It also noted how Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama have repeatedly clashed over Israel’s settlement policies, and that some 600,000 Jewish settlers now live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem — areas the Palestinians want as part of their future state, along with the Gaza Strip.
Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel annexed east Jerusalem, home to sensitive religious sites, in a move that is not internationally recognized, while the West Bank is divided between autonomous Palestinian zones and Israeli-controlled territory.
A Security Council resolution condemning the Israeli settlements at this time would present the Obama administration with a chance to take a final stand on the issue. Past years have seen Mr. Obama refuse to endorse anti-Israel resolutions put before the U.N. Security Council, arguing 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 Ed Royce.
“That’s what this is, and the Obama Administration should veto it,” the California Republican said in a statement. “A durable and sustainable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will come only through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties.”
Rep. Nita Lowey, New York Democrat, agreed, saying the administration should veto the motion and “uphold longstanding US policy of defending Israel against one-sided resolutions.”
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict should not be internationalized,” Ms. Lowey said in a statement. “Only the parties themselves can resolve their complicated differences through direct negotiations.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, went further, asserting that “the path to peace does not run through the United Nations, but through strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, bolstering Israel’s security, and direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, added that 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.”