Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end

Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end

Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end

Earth moving equipment stands in the disputed Israeli “settlement” of Ramat Shlomo, 23 December 2016Image copyrightEPA Image caption The resolution calls for Israel to stop settlement activity in the West Bank and East J

The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution urging an end to illegal Israeli settlements after the US refused to veto it.

Israeli officials have condemned the US abstention.

The Egyptian-drafted resolution had been withdrawn after Israel asked Donald Trump to intervene but it was proposed again by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela.

The US has traditionally sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said: “This is not a resolution against settlements, it is an anti-Israel resolution, against the Jewish people and the state of the Jews.

“The United States tonight has simply abandoned its only friend in the Middle East.”

The issue of Jewish settlements is one of the most contentious between Israel and the Palestinians, who see them as an obstacle to peace.

About 500,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The UN Security Council resolution was passed with 14 votes in favour and the US abstention.

US policy reverse: Analysis by Barbara Plett Usher, BBC UN correspondent

The resolution reflects an international consensus that the growth of Israeli settlement-building has come to threaten the viability of a Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

It is a view strongly shared by the Obama administration, and for that reason the US reversed its policy of vetoing any UN Security Council criticism of Israel.

It is a decision that was taken after months of debate within the administration about whether and how President Obama might be able to define his position on a two-state solution before leaving office.

But his successor Donald Trump has made clear he intends to strongly support Israeli government positions, even making a highly unorthodox intervention before the vote by publicly urging Mr Obama to veto the resolution

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said the resolution reflected the “facts on the ground” that settlement growth had been accelerating.

“The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is threatening the two-state solution,” she said.

She criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for settlement expansion, saying: “One cannot simultaneously champion expanding settlements and champion a two-state solution that would end the conflict.”

However, Ms Power added that the US had not voted in favour of the resolution because it was “too narrowly focused” on settlements.

She added that even if all settlements were dismantled, both sides would still have to acknowledge “uncomfortable truths” and make “difficult choices” to reach peace.

‘Things will be different’

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said after the vote: “It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution.

Israeli settlements: UN Security Council calls for an end

“I have no doubt that the new US administration and the incoming UN secretary-general will usher in a new era in terms of the UN’s relationship with Israel.”

On Thursday, Mr Trump had urged the Security Council to defeat the motion.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

Mr Trump takes over as president on 20 January.

He tweeted after the vote: “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20th.”