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A UN Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria was postponed indefinitely at the last minute, causing a setback to the Palestinians.

Reportedly under heavy Israeli pressure, Egypt on Thursday indefinitely postponed a planned UN vote on a proposed Security Council resolution that sought to condemn construction in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, just a few hours before the vote was set to take place.

The vote would have been one of the last opportunities for US President Barack Obama to make an impact against Israeli settlement building. The delay also dealt a setback to repeated Palestinian efforts to censure Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly urged the U.S. to veto the resolution, calling it bad for peace. “Peace will come not through UN resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties,” he said.

Trump Urges Obama to Veto Resolution

President-elect Donald Trump had also urged Obama to block the measure, issuing a statement nearly identical to Netanyahu’s.

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

The US, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has traditionally used its veto power to block resolutions condemning Israel. But in recent weeks, the Obama administration had been especially secretive about its deliberations, which included what one official described as an unannounced meeting between Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month.

The US had been considering a highly unusual abstention, potentially rocking US-Israeli relations, officials said, though they wouldn’t say whether Obama had made a final decision.

Israel has expressed concern that Obama would take an audacious step in his last weeks in office to revive the peace process, but US officials have said he has nearly ruled out any major last-ditch effort to pressure Israel.

Egypt, the Arab representative to the Security Council, circulated the draft on Wednesday. Several diplomats and Western officials said the Egyptians postponed the vote due to pressure from the Israelis. Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, was meeting with Arab League diplomats to review the text. Diplomats said there was no time frame for when the vote may now occur and said it could be put off indefinitely.

The diplomats and officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said Israeli diplomats had made the government’s views clear “in various channels.”

The office of the UN  spokesman later announced Thursday that the Security Council meeting has been postponed.

The draft resolution, circulated by Egypt, demands that Israel stop settlement activities in the Palestinian territories and declares that all existing settlements “have no legal validity” and are “a flagrant violation” of international law.

Resolution Would Weaken Israel’s Position

A Security Council resolution would be more than symbolic since it carries the weight of international law. In the past, Obama has refused to endorse anti-Israel resolutions in the council, saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved through negotiations.

Robbie Sabel, professor of international law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the resolution would have been “politically damaging” for Israel as it could have weakened its position when negotiating the settlement issue with the Palestinians.

The Obama Administration and much of the international community consider Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem – the biblical homeland of the Jewish people – illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. Netanyahu rejects such claims, blaming the failure of peace efforts on the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel’s Jewish identity and on Palestinian incitement to terror.

By: AP and United with Israel

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