Security Council approves anti-settlement resolution, US abstains

UN body passes motion by 14-0; succession of speakers castigate settlements as threatening chances of a two-state solution

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, pictured as the UN Security Council meets on December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)
US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, pictured as the UN Security Council meets on December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)

The UN Security Council voted Friday to demand Israel halt settlement activity, with the United States taking the rare step of refraining from wielding its veto to protect its closest Mideast ally.

The vote on Resolution 2334 was held at 2 p.m. (1900 GMT) at the request of four countries — New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela — who stepped in to push for action after Egypt, under pressure from US President-elect Donald Trump, withdrew the proposal.

The same Egyptian draft resolution was submitted to a vote, at the request of the four countries, and was approved 14-0, with the US abstaining.

A succession of speakers, led by the US Ambassador Samantha Power, castigated settlements as threatening the viability of a two-state solution.

Watch a live-stream of the session here.

Israel’s Channel 2 news reported on Friday evening that in a phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry had refused to commit to vetoing the resolution.

The 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 four member states had warned earlier that they would push ahead with the resolution if Cairo stood by its decision to delay.

“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,” wrote New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia and Senegal in a note they presented to Egyptian officials, according to Reuters.

Egypt had said earlier its president received a call from Trump in which they both agreed to give the incoming US administration a chance to try and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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

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

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