UN Security Council Vote on Settlements Postponed After Israel Pressured Egypt

Following massive Israeli pressure on President Sissi and calls by Trump for a U.S. veto, Egypt decides to delay the vote on its proposed resolution until the Arab League convenes, diplomats tell Haaretz.

Netanyahu pauses in silence as he addresses the UN General Assembly, October 1, 2015.
Netanyahu pauses in silence as he addresses the UN General Assembly, October 1, 2015. AFP

Egypt asked to postpone the vote at the UN Security Council on a draft resolution it had put forward on Israeli settlements Thursday following Israeli pressure, western diplomats with knowledge of the matter told Haaretz, adding there was a chance it would be delayed "indefinitely."

The diplomats said the Egypt put forward the resolution on Wednesday evening with the intent of having it put to a vote. According to diplomats, in the early morning hours, Netanyahu exerted heavy pressure on Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi to try to have it delayed.

The diplomats said that in wake of the Israeli pressure, Egypt requested the vote's delay to permit them to conduct an additional meeting of the Arab League's foreign ministers to work on the resolution's wording.

It was unclear when the new vote, initially scheduled for Thursday, would take place, if ever, with diplomats saying it could be put off "indefinitely." The request came hours of President-elect Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the U.S. veto the resolution.

Egypt presented the UN Security Council on Wednesday night with a draft resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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A senior Israeli official said that should the U.S. fail to veto the resolution, it would be breaching its long-standing commitment to Israel. The official added that Israel expects the U.S. to act in accordance with its long-term policy, unhindered by changes in administration, according to which negotiations must be carried out directly between Israel and the Palestinians themselves.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump issued a statement Thursday calling on President Barack Obama to veto the resolution. According to Trump, if the resolution is adopted by the Security Council this would be unfair toward Israelis and will place Israel at a disadvantage in future negotiations.

Earlier on Thursday, the French ambassador to Israel said that the draft UN Security Council resolution against the settlements submitted by Egypt is balanced and matches France's position, and that she expects her country to support it.

Hélène Le Gal also said that it was Israel’s settlement policy, in particular the advancement of the outpost legalization bill, that pushed Egypt and the international community to promote an anti-settlement resolution in the Security Council. The statements by some Israeli ministers that Israel should launch a wave of settlement construction and take the two-state solution off the table also gave a push to the Security Council move, she added.

In recent months, Netanyahu expressed his concern that toward the end of his term Obama would refrain from vetoing a resolution on the settlements at the Security Council. Since taking office in 2009, Obama vetoed a resolution presented to the Security Council once – in February 2011, when the Palestinians brought to a vote a resolution against the settlements.

The draft resolution's main clauses

The Egyptian draft resolution is a little milder than the versions circulated by the Palestinians in the past two weeks. According to the text itself, the resolution:

■ "Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution."

■ "Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities 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 are imperiling the two-state solution."

■ "Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations."

■ "Calls upon all States, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967."

■ "Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism; and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric."