Interestingly, the United States would allow the U.N. Security Council to criticize Israel. Specifically, the Council intended to approve a resolution to stop the construction of Israeli settlements.
Egypt put forward the resolution; however, the country cancelled the vote for the resolution. Sources say Israeli pressure and the looming presidency of president-elect Donald Trump. In fact, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the White House to use its veto power against the resolution.
The U.S. planned to not vote. A move to tacitly criticize Israel’s settlement building on land proposed for Palestinian territory. U.S. officials opposed Israel’s effort since it undermined the hard-fought, but yet-to-be-realized two-state solution.
The U.S. history of abstaining is thin. The last time the country abstained was in 2009 and then once in 1979.
Eygpt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Trump spoke on the issue recently. According to Reuters:
“The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new U.S. administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement,” said presidency spokesman Alaa Yousef.
The resolution would demand Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and it said the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.
“Egypt is currently a Security Council member and worked with the Palestinians to draft the text.”
Egypt’s attempt at warm relations with Trump err on the side of the pragmatism, caution. Likely, the country wants to maintain military support and funding from the United States. President Barack Obama gave aid to Egypt once more in Spring 2015 following its suspension. The suspension happened after Egypt’s 2013 presidential election. El-Sisi received “12 F-16 fighter jets, replacement kits for 125 Abrams tanks, and 20 Harpoon missiles” according to The Guardian. The country receives $1.3 billion annually to fund its military. The country gets the second largest amount from U.S. for military funding. Israel receives the most.
Obama criticized the Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem and West Bank. Nevertheless, he will not make any policy decisions regarding the issue before leaving office. On the other hand, Trump may make a significant shift in policy when he becomes president. Thus, right-leaning Israeli leaders are ecstatic. The Israeli Prime Minister included.
New US Ambassador to Israel
Trump’s soon-to-be ambassador to Israel signals the largest shift in policy. David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer and Trump campaign adviser, supports Israel and its goals. One of Friedman’s goals is to move the U.S embassy to Jerusalem. This promise aligns with Trump’s words during the presidential campaign. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 demands the US government move the embassy to Jerusalem. But all presidents since then refused to do so. Really, they just waived the requirement.
Friedman opposes a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. And this opposition has not made him any friends. J-Street, a ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ advocacy group, criticized Friedman’s views.