The United Nations Security Council on Dec. 23 voted in favor of adopting Resolution 2334, that calls on Israel to cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The vote, with 14 member states voting in favor and the United States abstaining, was the first such vote to be held on the Middle East Peace process in eight years. The resolution's text, drafted by Egypt alongside Palestine, demands that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem," and emphasizes that the establishment of settlements by Israel has "no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law." The abstention by Obama came as a major reversal in US policy, as a similar resolution was vetoed by the US in 2011.
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said in a statement that the US had decided against a veto because the resolution is consistent with US policy on Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territory, and that the US decided against voting in favor due to the resolution being too "narrowly focused on settlements," which would not guarantee peace even if "every single settlement is dismantled." She added: "We wouldn’t have let it pass had it not addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians."
Ahead of the resolution's passing, Egypt had caved under diplomatic pressure from Israel and postponed their proposal to hold a vote at the UN Security Council on Dec. 22. Israeli authorities had also reportedly reached out to US president-elect Donald Trump at the time to put pressure on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to withdraw the vote.
However, New Zealand, Venezuela, Malaysia, and Senegal, with the support of Palestine, gave Egypt an ultimatum to clarify by midnight whether it planned to call the vote, or they would put the draft resolution to vote themselves, eventually pressuring Egypt to reschedule the vote the following day.
Meanwhile, Israeli Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the United States had "abandoned" Israel by abstaining from the vote, adding that "the heart aches that after eight years of friendship… and cooperation with Obama, this is his final chord."
Critics have pointed out that multiple UNSC resolutions condemning Israeli policies in the Palestinian territory have been previously passed, but the lack of political will to enforce such measures has remained clear. Israeli authorities in 2016 approved thousands of new settler units on occupied Palestinian land, allocating millions of dollars to the expansion of settlements.
While the US government has routinely condemned Israel's settlement expansions, US officials have yet to take any concrete actions to end settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Critics have claimed that instead the US has inadvertently encouraged Israel's settlement enterprise through its consistent inaction over Israel's violation of international law and its continued support of the Israeli government through inflated military aid packages.
From Ma'an News Agency, Dec. 23