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Egypt presented the UN Security Council on Wednesday night with a draft resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and wishes to hold a vote on it on Thursday, at 3 P.M. local time (10 P.M. Israel time).
The Egyptian move surprised Israel, the United States and a large part of the Security Council's members, a senior Israeli official noted. The draft resolution states that the settlements have "no legal validity" and that Israel must completely halt settlement construction. It also calls on the international community to clearly distinct between Israel proper and the settlements.
Officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office had expected that a draft resolution against the settlements would be presented to the Security Council by the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves the White House on January 20. The Palestinians circulated a draft proposal some two weeks ago, as did New Zealand.
However, the "high-alert" preparedness level in Jerusalem slightly decreased in recent days, after a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Arab League concluded in Cairo on Monday without reaching a decision to promote a Security Council resolution, according to the information Israel received on the matter.
On Wednesday night, the Egyptians circulated their draft proposal to Security Council members without giving any prior notice to Israel, despite the supposedly warm relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. Members of the Israeli delegation to the UN held preliminary consultations overnight with the representatives of the Security Council's members, particularly the U.S. Senior Israeli officials noted that the Americans, as well as other countries' representatives, said that they were also surprised by the Egyptian move.
According to the senior Israeli officials, the Americans have yet to decide how they will vote. The White House and the State Department did not respond on the matter. Netanyahu, meanwhile, tweeted that "The U.S. should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday."
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 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."