The UN Security Council on Thursday delayed a contentious vote on a draft resolution demanding that Israel halt settlements as US president-elect Donald Trump weighed in and said the US should veto the measure.
Egypt requested that the vote be postponed, one day after submitting the draft text to the council, a move that triggered immediate calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a US veto to block the resolution.
A similar resolution was vetoed by the US in 2011 and it remained unclear whether Washington would shift its stance this time, possibly abstaining to allow the measure to pass, although without US support.
“Israelis deeply appreciate one of the great pillars of the US-Israel alliance — the willingness over many years of the United States to stand up in the UN and veto anti-Israel resolutions,” Netanyahu said. “I hope the US won’t abandon this policy.”
Israel launched a frantic lobbying effort to pressure Egypt to drop the bid, and reached out to its supporters in the US and at the UN Security Council for support.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said his government was deploying “diplomatic efforts on all fronts to ensure that this disgraceful resolution will not pass in the Security Council.”
A senior UN Security Council diplomat suggested the motion could be buried indefinitely.
“There was a window of opportunity. Whether that window is still there is really not clear,” a Western diplomat said.
Trump, who 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,” Trump said in a statement. “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations.”
“This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis,” he said.
CNN reported that Israel reached out to Trump for help to pressure the administration of US President Barack Obama into vetoing the resolution.
CNN quoted a senior Israeli official as saying Israel “implored the White House not to go ahead and told them that if they did, we would have no choice but to reach out to president-elect Trump.”
CNN reported the official as saying: “We did reach out to the president-elect and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do.”
Trump called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to talk about the vote, CNN said, citing a diplomatic source. It said Trump called after Israel asked him to step in.
Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said Trump’s call for a veto was in response to pressure from the Israeli prime minister.
“He is acting on behalf of Netanyahu,” Mansour said.
Trump has chosen as ambassador to Israel the hardliner David Friedman, who has said Washington would not pressure Israel to curtail settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
No new time frame was announced for the vote, which had been scheduled for Thursday.
Arab ambassadors held an emergency meeting at the UN to press Egypt to move ahead with a vote, but an Arab League committee decided after meeting in Cairo to continue talks on the fate of the motion.
Palestinian envoy Jamal al-Shobaki told reporters in Cairo that Egypt asked for more time and that there would be discussions over the next two days on the next step.
Obama has expressed anger over the continued expansion of the Jewish outposts and speculation has grown that he could launch a final initiative before leaving office.
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