UN Vote on Settlements Could Still Take Place, Israeli Cabinet Warned

Israel asked Trump to voice objection to vote, eventually leading to tweet that helped pressure Egypt; Minister says Israel does not believe U.S. would veto resolution should it be put up to vote.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016.Credit: AP / Amir Cohen
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Despite Egypt's decision to postpone the UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements, there was still a chance the vote could still take place in the upcoming days or weeks, members of Israel's security cabinet were warned Thursday evening.

A cabinet minister, who asked to remain anonymous, said that during the meeting, which lasted over an a hour and a half, the ministers were told that the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's office currently believe that U.S. President Obama would not invoke America's veto power should the resolution be put to the vote at the Security Council.

"The danger has not yet passed," the minister said, adding that Israel was still on high alert. "This is still live. Everything is open and another country could put forward an idenitcial resolution in the upcoming day. The goal is to pressure Obama through different channels to invoke the veto while also securing the vote being delayed as much as possible until after the January 20 – when Trump enters the White House.

As part of efforts to stop the Egyptian resolution, Israel's U.S. Ambassador Ron Dermer and other Israelis reached out to President-elect Donald Trump's advisers to ask him to publish a statement against the UN resolution. As a result, Trump did voice his objection, which helped Egypt decide to postpone the vote. Dermer even tweeted that Israel's appreciates Trump's "clear and unequivocal call" to veto what he called an "anti-Israeli" resolution at the UN.

Senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats stated that the Prime Minister's Office has been applying heavy pressure of senior officials in Cairo from Thursday morning in order to bring about a postponement of the Security Council resolution.

Netanyahu himself didn't talk with the Egyptian president; the discussions took place between lower level officials. Israel's message was that the action that Egypt has taken does not coincide with the good relations and security cooperation the two countries enjoy, and was extremely harmful to Israel. The Israeli pressure and President-elect Trump's statement that he opposed the resolution are what led the Egyptians to postpone the vote on the resolution.

The immediate result of the Egyptian postponement was the cancelation of speech Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to give several hours before the vote was to take place. The news of Kerry's speech reached Jerusalem Thursday morning and further raised fears that the Obama administration was not planning to veto the resolution against the settlements. Department of State Spokesperson John Kirby said that the speech was supposed to deal with Kerry's vision concerning the Israeli-Palestinians peace agreement, and that he was planning to give it in a different date.

Kirby said he didn't know if or when the Egyptian resolution would be brought to a vote. On Thursday evening, the Arab League's cabinet held a meeting on the subject. But western diplomats think that the postponement will likely lead the resolution to fizzle away.

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