UN Security Council denounces Israel in statement after US showdown averted
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -The U.N. Security Council issued a formal statement on Monday denouncing Israel's plan to expand settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, the first action the United States has allowed the body to take against its ally Israel in six years.
Washington's support for the presidential statement - action the 15-member council has to agree by consensus - came after the United Arab Emirates said it would not put a stronger draft resolution on the issue to a vote, a move that could have prompted a U.S. veto.
"The Security Council reiterates that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperiling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines," the council said in the statement. "The Security Council expresses deep concern and dismay with Israel's announcement on February 12."
In contrast the draft resolution, seen by Reuters, would have demanded Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory." Resolutions need nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Russia, China, France or Britain to be adopted.
Israel's religious-nationalist coalition government on Feb. 12 granted retroactive authorization to nine settler outposts that had been erected without government approval, angering the Palestinians, who want the West Bank for a future state.
"All the ingredients are there for us to reach a point of no return," Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour told the council. "Every action we take now matters. Every word we utter matters. Every decision we delay matters."
The UAE told Security Council counterparts on Sunday that it would not put the draft resolution to a vote on Monday "given the positive talks between the parties."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office then said on Monday that Israel will not authorize new settlements in the occupied West Bank in the coming months.
Netanyahu's office described the Security Council statement on Monday as "one-sided" and criticized the United States for supporting it, adding: "The statement should not have been made and the United States should not have joined it."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council that the United States opposes Israel's Feb. 12 settlement plans.
"These unilateral measures exacerbate tensions. They harm trust between the parties. They undermine the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution. The United States does not support these actions full stop," she said.
Thomas-Greenfield described the presidential statement as "real diplomacy at work" that shows how seriously the council "takes these threats to peace," adding: "The United States joined other members of this council in asking both Israelis and Palestinians to take the urgent and necessary steps to restore calm and improve the quality of life for their people."
In December 2016 U.S. President Barack Obama's administration abstained on a Security Council vote, allowing the body to adopt a resolution that demanded Israel stop building settlements.
Most world powers view as illegal the settlements Israel has built on land it captured in a 1967 war with Arab powers. Israel disputes that and cites biblical, historical and political links to the West Bank, as well as security interests.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Rami Ayyub, Nick Zieminski and Sandra Maler)