Middle East

Israel blasts US over UN vote on settlements

Earth moving equipment stands in the disputed Israeli "settlement" of Ramat Shlomo, 23 December 2016 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The resolution calls for Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

Israel has reacted furiously over a renewed bid to bring a resolution condemning settlements on occupied land before the UN Security Council.

A senior official accused the US of a "shameful move" after learning that the White House did not intend to veto the text.

The Egyptian-drafted resolution was earlier withdrawn after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene.

But four other countries later stepped in and a vote is due later on Friday.

The US, which can veto resolutions as a permanent member of the Security Council, has traditionally sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions by voting them down.

But the outgoing Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory and there had been speculation that in its final month it might allow a resolution against settlements to pass at the UN.

'A tail-wind for terror'

A senior Israeli official, quoted by AP news agency, said: "President Obama and Secretary [of State John] Kerry are behind this shameful move against Israel at the UN.

"The US administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti-Israeli resolution behind Israel's back which would be a tail-wind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall [in Jerusalem] occupied Palestinian territory.

"President Obama could declare his willingness to veto this resolution in an instant but instead is pushing it."

The official, who was not named, added: "This is an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN and undermines the prospects of working with the next administration [and] advancing peace."

A senior US official later hit back, saying Washington had not been involved in drafting or promoting the resolution.

The official, speaking to Reuters, also said the US had not told any other Security Council members how it would vote.

As the row deepened, US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham threatened to cut US financial support for the UN if it moved forward with the "ill-conceived resolution".

Incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on the Obama administration to use its veto, saying the "one-sided UN" was "exactly the wrong forum to bring about peace".

Malaysia, Senegal, New Zealand and Venezuela, which were co-sponsors of the resolution, are to submit the draft. A vote is due at 19:00 GMT.

Israel contacted the president-elect's team earlier on Friday after learning that the US might abstain in the vote.

The office of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi later said he had discussed the issue in a phone call with Mr Trump but no details of the conversation were given.

Analysts say President Sisi has sought good relations with the incoming US president.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Donald Trump held a phone call with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi

French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the "key goal" of the resolution was "to preserve and reaffirm the two-state solution".

"The text that we have does not exclusively focus on settlements," he told reporters.

"It also condemns the violence and terrorism. It also calls to prevent all incitement from the Palestinian side so this is a balanced text."

On Thursday, Mr Trump had urged the Security Council to defeat the motion.

"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 in a statement.

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

Mr Trump takes over as president on 20 January.

The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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