Trump promises change at UN after controversial Israel vote

Trump promises change at UN after controversial Israel vote
Washington's policies towards the UN will change after Trump takes office after 20 January, the president-elect promised, after a controversial UN vote demanding an end to Israeli settlement construction.
3 min read
24 December, 2016
President Donald Trump will enter the White House in January [Getty]
US President-elect Donald Trump vowed that the country's policies at the United Nations will change after he takes office, following a controversial UN security council vote demanding an end to Israeli settlement construction.

"As to the UN, things will be different after 20 January," he said on Twitter, referring to the date of his inauguration.

The tweet came after the US refrained from vetoing the adoption of a Security Council measure calling on Israel - its closest Middle East ally - to halt settlement activities in Palestinian territory.

The rare step by the US allowed the measure to pass by a vote of 14 in favour in the 15-member council.

The resolution demands that "Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem".

It states that Israeli settlements have "no legal validity" and are "dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-state solution" that would see an independent Palestinian state co-exist alongside Israel.

Trump, who campaigned on a promise to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, had bluntly said on Thursday that Washington should use its veto to block the resolution.

"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.

Trump has chosen as ambassador to Israel the hardliner David Friedman, who has said Washington will not pressure Israel to curtail settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Obama's relations with Israel

The landmark move by the Security Council came despite intense lobbying efforts by Israel and Trump to block the resolution.

Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms.
- Binyamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel

But the Obama administration has grown increasingly frustrated with settlement building in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied for nearly 50 years.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected the resolution and criticised Obama in especially harsh language.

"Israel rejects this shameful anti-Israel resolution at the UN and will not abide by its terms," a statement from his office said.

"The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes," it said.

There have been growing warnings that settlement building is fast eroding the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They are constructed on land the Palestinians view as part of their future state and have long been seen as illegal under international law.

The United States has traditionally served as Israel's diplomatic shield, protecting it from resolutions it opposes.

But there had been mounting speculation that Obama would allow such a resolution to pass before he leaves office on January 20.

Obama and Netanyahu have had testy relations, but Israel's statement after the vote was particularly harsh toward the US administration, as were comments earlier in the day from an anonymous Israeli official.

The United States is Israel's most important ally and provides it with more than $3 billion per year in defence aid.

'Blow for Israeli policy'

Friday's vote was scheduled at the request of New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela, which stepped in after Egypt put the draft resolution on hold.

After the resolution passed, Israel recalled its ambassadors to Senegal and New Zealand for consultations. It has no diplomatic relations with Venezuela or Malaysia.

A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas called the resolution a "big blow for Israeli policies".

The move was "an international and unanimous condemnation of settlements and strong support for the two-state solution," said Nabil Abu Rudeina.

Hamas, the ruling party that runs the Gaza Strip, also welcomed the vote.