US averts UN diplomatic crisis over Israeli settlements ABC

US averts UN diplomatic crisis over Israeli settlements

The Biden administration has averted a potential diplomatic crisis over Israeli settlements at the United Nations that threatened to overshadow US efforts to focus the world body on Russia’s war with Ukraine ahead of this week’s one-year anniversary…



Feb 19, 2023 4:09pm ET

• 4 minutes reading time

Several diplomats familiar with the situation said on Sunday that the US had successfully forestalled a controversial UN Security Council resolution pushed by the Palestinians, which condemned Israel for expanding settlements and called for a halt to future activities .

To avoid a vote and a likely US veto on such a resolution, the diplomats said the government had managed to persuade both Israel and the Palestinians to agree in principle to a six-month freeze on any unilateral action they might take .

On the Israeli side, according to diplomats, that would mean a commitment not to expand settlements until at least August.

On the Palestinian side, diplomats said it would mean a commitment not to pursue any action against Israel at the UN and other international bodies such as the World Court, the International Criminal Court and the UN Human Rights Council until August.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the highly sensitive negotiations.

The tentative deal means the US will not have to veto the resolution as planned, which would have caused President Joe Biden a political headache ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Biden is struggling to balance his opposition to Israeli settlements and support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with measures to improve ties with the Palestinians, which enjoy broad support among his progressive supporters.

And although the government has already denounced Israel’s recent settlement expansion and called the Palestinian resolution “unhelpful,” senior Republicans in Congress have warned Biden that a veto would have serious consequences for his legislative agenda.

A veto would also offend pro-Palestinian UN member countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, which backed the Security Council resolution on Russia and Ukraine.

The US will expect the UAE and other Palestinian-sympathetic Council members to vote for resolutions condemning Russia for invading Ukraine and calling for a cessation of hostilities and the immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces.

The deal came Sunday after days of frantic talks by senior Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Sullivan’s deputy Brett McGurk, the top diplomat for Middle East, Barbara Leaf, and Special Envoy for Palestinian Affairs, Hady Amr.

The Palestinian push for a solution came as Israel’s new right-wing government reiterated its pledge to build new settlements in the West Bank and expand its authority on land Palestinians are seeking for a future state.

Israel conquered the West Bank along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The United Nations and most of the international community view Israeli settlements as illegal and an obstacle to ending the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Around 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, which is annexed by Israel.

In December 2016, the Security Council called on Israel to “immediately and completely halt all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.” It stressed that the cessation of settlement activity was “essential to salvaging the two-state solution.”

That resolution was passed after President Barack Obama’s administration abstained on the vote, a reversal of the United States’ long-standing practice of protecting its close ally Israel from action at the United Nations, including by vetoing Arab-backed ones resolutions.

But the situation in Ukraine is great.

On Thursday, the 193-member General Assembly is expected to vote on a resolution condemning the Russian invasion and reiterating its call for the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine and a cessation of hostilities. On Friday, the anniversary, the Security Council will hold a ministerial meeting on the invasion and its aftermath.


Lee reported from Washington.