Hours before the United Nations Security Council was to vote on a draft resolution demanding Israel halts settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories, President-elect Donald Trump urged the US to veto the measure.
Egypt on Wednesday circulated the draft calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”.
The vote was scheduled for 3pm (20:00 GMT) on Thursday.
“The resolution being considered at the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel should be vetoed,” Trump said in a statement on Thursday.
“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.
“This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis,” Trump added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier tweeted a similar message. “The US should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday,” he wrote.
A similar resolution was vetoed by the United States in 2011, and it remained uncertain if the measure would be adopted this time.
Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and seen as major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on Palestinian land occupied by Israel.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war.
Israel disputes that settlements are illegal and says their final status should be determined in any future talks on Palestinian statehood.
The UN maintains settlements are illegal and has repeatedly called on Israel to halt them, but there has been a surge in construction over the past months.
A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China to be adopted.
Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said US President Barack Obama should push for the resolution to pass before leaving office.
“The Israeli government is violating international law; by doing so it is undermining the whole status of Israel,” he told Al Jazeera.
“If there is somebody to be blamed, it is the Israeli government … I do hope that President Obama will listen to us and at least allow this resolution to pass. He has failed us in the past. He promised he would ask Israel to stop settlement activities and he failed to do so for eight years.”
‘No legal validity’
Wednesday’s draft text says the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.
It also 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.
The text 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”.
UN diplomats see the resolution as a final chance for council action on the Middle East before Trump succeeds Obama on January 20.
“We do know that there is a great deal of anger in the [US] administration at, frankly, the utter lack of progress on Middle East peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians over the last eight years,” said Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington DC.
“The Obama administration police has been clear that while they have policy differences, they feel that any Security Council resolution would be unhelpful for what they still call a peace process. We’ll have to wait and see,” Rattansi added.