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Trump Pressures Obama Over U.N. Resolution on Israeli Settlements

Mr. Trump, who last week nominated as ambassador to Israel a bankruptcy lawyer who heads a fund-raising effort for a West Bank settlement, made clear on Thursday that he would not wait for his inauguration to weigh in. In a statement, he said bluntly that the resolution should be vetoed.

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

Mr. Trump amplified his position by posting the statement on Facebook and Twitter as well.

His words closely echoed the positions expressed by Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has welcomed Mr. Trump’s election as a breath of fresh air after years of clashes with Mr. Obama.

Mr. Netanyahu treated the impending United Nations vote as a crisis, staying up late into the night discussing it with aides and posting on his own Twitter account, at 3:28 a.m. local time, a message urging Mr. Obama to veto what he called the “anti-Israel” resolution. He then canceled a public appearance later in the day and called a meeting of security cabinet ministers to address the matter.

“The Israelis leaned on the Egyptians this morning to postpone the vote, and the Egyptians basically caved,” said a Western official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic delicacy of the matter.

The Egyptian Mission to the United Nations could not be reached for an immediate comment.

If the White House had let the resolution pass, it would have been a symbolic blow to the diplomatic shield that the United States has always offered Israel. It would also have sent a strong signal of international disapproval over the construction of settlements, which are widely regarded as illegal under international law.

The draft resolution, offered by Egypt in its role as the Arab representative to the Council, called settlements “a flagrant violation under international law” and “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution.” It called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities” in the occupied West Bank.

It also included a nod to Israel and its backers by condemning “all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction.” That amounts to diplomatic scolding of Palestinian leaders, whom Israel accuses of encouraging attacks on Israeli civilians.

Egypt, one of Israel’s most reliable partners in the Middle East and a longtime United States ally, announced that it would put up the draft measure for a vote after extensive consultations with fellow Arab diplomats. The vote was scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m. But by midmorning, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered his diplomats to pull the resolution.

The Obama administration vetoed a 2011 resolution condemning settlements, and in 2013, another resolution did not muster enough votes to pass. According to Security Council Report, an independent research organization, the United States has vetoed 30 resolutions regarding Israel and the Palestinians, plus a dozen more regarding Israel and Lebanon or Syria, more than half of its 77 vetoes since the United Nations was founded in 1946.

To be adopted, a resolution needs at least nine votes and no vetoes by the Council’s five permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Palestinian officials and other United Nations diplomats had said they thought the chances of passage were high.

Part of the administration’s calculation is likely to be based on Israel’s own actions. Mr. Obama has not had a good relationship with Mr. Netanyahu, and the White House has consistently criticized Israel’s continued settlement activities.

The fight over the resolution comes amid another heated settlement battle unfolding in Israel. The government plans to relocate residents of Amona, a West Bank outpost that even Israel’s Supreme Court declared illegal, to a nearby hilltop that Palestinians and their supporters believe is equally problematic.

It also represents the Obama administration’s last chance to weigh in on the sharply deteriorating prospects for peace, and indeed the cornerstone of United States policy: a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

Mr. Trump’s ambassador-designate, David M. Friedman, has suggested that Israel annex the West Bank, has denounced the two-state solution, and has likened Jewish members of the lobbying group J Street to “kapos” that cooperated with the Nazis.

Mr. Friedman, an Orthodox Jew who has an apartment in Jerusalem, is also a major backer of settlements, serving as president of an American fund-raising group that supports a yeshiva in Beit El, a religious settlement deep in the West Bank.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Friedman have also said they plan to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, something counter to longstanding bipartisan policy that could yield ire throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Israel considers Jerusalem, including territory it captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, as its undivided capital, but the Palestinians see the holy city as the capital of their future state. Washington has long insisted that Jerusalem’s status can only be determined through negotiations as part of a broader peace agreement.

Source: NYT > World

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