Amid pressure from Trump and Netanyahu, Egypt stalls UN anti-settlement vote


(JTA) — Four U.N. Security Council members said they would bring to a vote a draft resolution on Israeli settlements instead of the one being stalled by Egypt under pressure from Israel and President-elect Donald Trump.

New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal asked Egypt to clarify by late Thursday whether it planned to call a vote on the draft resolution, which it drafted with the Palestinians but then put on hold amid calls for a U.S. veto by Israel and Trump, Reuters reported.

Two unnamed Western officials told Reuters that outgoing President Barack Obama had intended to have the United States abstain from the vote, saying it was to register criticism of the building on occupied land that Palestinians want for a state. The draft condemns settlement activity, calling it a “flagrant violation” of international law.

“In the event that Egypt decides that it cannot proceed to call for vote on 23 December or does not provide a response by the deadline, those delegations reserve the right to table the draft … and proceed to put it to vote ASAP,” the four states wrote in a note seen by Reuters. They plan to meet Friday morning to decide how to proceed, diplomats told the news agency.

Officials in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office spoke to Egyptian officials on Thursday about postponing the vote, an Israeli diplomat told Reuters.

Trump spoke on the phone Thursday evening with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, though neither Trump’s team nor Egyptian officials would reveal the contents of the talk. Both Trump and Netanyahu took to social networks to call for a U.S. veto.

On Facebook, Trump wrote that the draft 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. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis,” he wrote.

And Netanyahu wrote on Twitter: “The U.S. should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.” It was an unusually public appeal regarding an issue that is usually coordinated between the two allies behind closed doors, suggesting that Netanyahu was not certain that the United States under Obama would indeed veto.

Israel approached the Trump campaign after it felt that it had failed to persuade the Obama administration to veto the planned vote, an Israeli official told CNN. The official said that Israel “implored the White House not to go ahead and told them that if they did, we would have no choice but to reach out to President-elect Trump.”

The United States has long complained of anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.

Under Obama, Washington also publicly criticized Israeli construction in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and all other lands captured by Israel in 1967 as detrimental to the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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