US President-elect Donald Trump echoed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in urging the Obama administration on Thursday to veto a U.N. Security Council draft resolution that calls for an immediate halt to settlement building on occupied land Palestinians seek for a state. Netanyahu took to Twitter in the dead of night in Israel to make the appeal, in a sign of concern that President Barack Obama might take a parting shot at a policy he has long opposed and at a right-wing Israeli leader with whom he has had a rocky relationship.
Hours later, Trump, posting on Twitter and Facebook, backed fellow conservative Netanyahu on one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the pursuit – effectively stalled since 2014 – of a two-state solution.
“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed,” Trump said.
“As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and 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 wrote.
After Trump’s statement, a U.S. administration official said: “We have no comment at this time.”
Egypt circulated the draft on Wednesday evening and the 15-member council is due to vote at 3 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) on Thursday, diplomats said. It was unclear, they said, how the United States, which has protected Israel from U.N. action, would vote.
The resolution would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”. The White House declined to comment. Some diplomats hope Obama will allow Security Council action by abstaining on the vote.
Israel’s security cabinet was due to hold a special session at 1500 GMT to discuss the issue. Israeli officials voiced concern that passage of the resolution would embolden the Palestinians to seek international sanctions against Israel.
In Beirut, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters that Paris was looking at the text of the resolution with great interest. “The continuation of settlements is completely weakening the situation on the ground and creating a lot of tension,” he said. “It is taking away the prospect of a two-state solution. So this could reaffirm our disagreement with this policy.”
OBAMA CRITICAL OF SETTLEMENTS
Obama’s administration has been highly critical of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. U.S. officials said this month, however, the president was not expected to make major moves on Israeli-Palestinian peace before leaving office.
Tweeting at 3:28 a.m., Netanyahu said the United States “should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the U.N. Security Council on Thursday”.
Israel’s far-right and settler leaders have been buoyed by the election of Trump, the Republican presidential candidate. He has already signalled a possible change in U.S. policy by appointing one his lawyers – a fundraiser for a major Israeli settlement – as Washington’s new ambassador to Israel.
Netanyahu, for whom settlers are a key component of his electoral base, has said his right-wing government has been their greatest ally since the capture of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a 1967 war.
Some legislators in his right-wing Likud party have already suggested Israel declare sovereignty over the West Bank if the United States does not veto the resolution.
That prospect seemed unlikely, but Netanyahu could opt to step up building in settlements as a sign of defiance of Obama and support for settlers. Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital, a claim that is not recognised internationally.
In 2011, the United States vetoed a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements after the Palestinians refused a compromise offer from Washington. Israel’s U.N. ambassador Danny Danon said on Israeli Army Radio: “In a few hours we will receive the answer from our American friends.” “I hope very much it will be the same one we received in 2011 when the version was very similar to the one proposed now and the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Susan Rice, vetoed it.”
The draft text says the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”. It expresses grave concern that continuing settlement activities “are dangerously imperilling the viability of a two-state solution”.
The United States says continued Israeli settlement building lacks legitimacy, but has stopped short of adopting the position of many countries that it is illegal under international law. Some 570,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.