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UNSC postpones vote on Israeli settlements

A similar resolution was vetoed by the United States in 2011, and it remained uncertain if the measure would be adopted this time

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Under heavy Israeli pressure, Egypt on Thursday indefinitely postponed a planned UN. vote on a proposed Security Council resolution that sought to condemn Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, diplomats and Western officials said, just a few hours before the vote was set to take place.

The vote would have been one of the last opportunities for President Barack Obama to take a stand against Israeli settlement building after years of failed peace efforts, but doing so could re-ignite a dispute with a close ally in the waning days of his tenure.

The delay also dealt a setback to repeated Palestinian efforts to censure Israel over its settlements.

Egypt requested the delay to allow time for consultations on the measure, but no new time or date was scheduled, according to diplomats.

Egypt circulated the draft late Wednesday and a vote was initially scheduled for 3 pm (2000 GMT) on Thursday.

Also read: UN chief: Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects under threat

The draft resolution demanded that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” Israeli settlements are seen as major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The draft states that Israeli settlements are “dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution” that would see an independent state of Palestine co-exist alongside Israel. It stresses that halting settlements was “essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground.”

Also read: Nations united in condemning Israeli settlements

The measure calls for “immediate steps” to prevent acts of violence against civilians, but does not specifically single out the Palestinians to stop incitement, as demanded by Israel. UN diplomats have for weeks speculated as to whether the administration of US President Barack Obama would decide to refrain from using its veto to block a draft resolution condemning Israel.

Obama’s administration has expressed mounting anger over Israeli settlement policy and speculation has grown that he could launch a final initiative before leaving. Israel last month revived plans to build 500 new homes for Jewish settlers in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, after Donald Trump won the US presidential election.

Israeli settlements are seen as major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The United Nations maintains that settlements are illegal, but UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.

Some in the Israeli government view Trump’s victory as an opportunity to expand settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian land occupied by Israel for nearly 50 years.

Netanyahu tweets

In a post on Twitter, Netanyahu said the United States “should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday.” The tweet gave no indication whether Israel had been informed of how Washington planned to vote.

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted. UN diplomats see the resolution as a final chance for council action on the Middle East before Republican President-elect Donald Trump succeeds Democrat Obama on Jan. 20.

Trump has signaled he would support Israel in a number of critical areas and not pressure it to engage in talks with the Palestinians.

(With input from Reuters)