The United Nations Security Council suspended a vote on Israeli settlements today that could have seen the outgoing Obama administration refuse to cast a vote in favor of the Jewish State.
The Egyptian-drafted resolution, demanding that Israel stop all construction or other settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, was supposed to come to the council for a vote this afternoon. Instead, foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid told Sky News Arabia, the Arab League’s Committee to End the Occupation decided Monday to “reevaluate developments based on the resolution’s chances to pass in the Security Council.”
The Palestinian Authority, Morocco and Jordan also sit on the Arab League committee.
The United States used its veto power in 2011 to veto a similarly worded resolution, but there were considerable doubts about whether the White House — which has critical of Israel on settlements — would stand up for Israel this time.
According to NBC News, a diplomatic source said the U.S. had planned to disregard Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to veto the resolution and intended to abstain instead.
State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters today that “we’ll just have to wait and see what the result of those consultations are to see if the text moves forward — I honestly don’t know if or when a vote will be rescheduled.”
Kirby added that “obviously I’m not going to preview, nor would we preview, our views or our votes in advance of Security Council resolutions being voted on.”
“I’m not predicting anything, but the text could change now in the wake of discussions with the Arab League. So I think we all need to just — the Egyptians have pulled it back. They’ve asked for a postponement. They’re having discussions with their Arab League partners. We need to let that process work its way through,” he said. “If there’s changes to the text, obviously we’ll take a look at that. But I really don’t want to get ahead of any votes one way or another.”
The current text demands that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” adding that current construction has “no legal validity” and is “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution.”
It also states that stopping settlements is “essential for salvaging the two-state solution,” and calls for “affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground.” That alone is similar to calls that have come from the White House.
Netanyahu said in a statement that he hoped the U.S. wouldn’t “abandon” one of “the great pillars of the US-Israel alliance: the willingness over many years of the US to stand up in the UN and veto anti-Israel resolution.”
“I hope it will abide by the principles set by President Obama himself in his speech in the UN in 2011: That peace will come not through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties,” Netanyahu added. “And that’s why this proposed resolution is bad. It’s bad for Israel; it’s bad for the United States; and it’s bad for peace.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon called the resolution the “peak of hypocrisy” that will “only reward the Palestinian policy of incitement and terror.”
“We expect our greatest ally not to allow this one-sided and anti-Israel resolution to be adopted by the council,” Danon said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee “strongly” urged the administration to veto the resolution, noting that “overwhelming bipartisan majorities of both the Senate and House of Representatives have recently urged the administration to veto any such one-sided, anti-Israel resolutions, and the administration must make clear that it is prepared to do so.”
“Unfortunately, Palestinian leadership has refused to return to talks with Israel and has continued to incite violence,” AIPAC added in a statement today. “A UNSC resolution would only reward this negative strategy and undermine efforts to truly pursue a lasting peace.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said not only the text of the resolution but the timing should compel a veto from the administration.
“By introducing the resolution yesterday and scheduling a vote this week, other members of the Security Council have not had sufficient time to consider the text,” Cardin noted earlier today.