Feb 14, 2023 - World

Palestinians pushing for UN Security Council vote on Israel settlement expansion

 Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, speaks during an emergency Security Council meeting on the escalation in the occupied West Bank on Jan. 5.

Riyad Mansour, the UN ambassador to the UN, speaks Jan. 5 during an emergency Security Council meeting on the escalation in the occupied West Bank. Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP via Getty Images

The Palestinian Authority is talking to members of the UN Security Council about a possible resolution against Israeli government policy, mainly around the latest decision to expand the settlements in the occupied West Bank, Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The Biden administration opposes any unilateral moves by Israel, including settlement expansion, that would hurt efforts to negotiate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If the resolution is introduced and passed, it will likely force the U.S. to decide whether to use its veto to support Israel, which it has repeatedly done in the past.

Driving the news: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday that he wants a Security Council resolution that stresses the need to stop Israel's unilateral actions and preserve the two-state solution.

  • Several hours later, Israel announced it was legalizing nine outposts in the West Bank and approving the planning and building of 10,000 new housing units in existing settlements.
  • Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, on Monday sent a letter to the members of the Security Council about the Israeli Cabinet decision.
  • In the letter, which was obtained by Axios, Mansour writes that the Security Council must act immediately to send a clear message to Israel against its settlement activity. Much of the international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law.

Behind the scenes: The Biden administration is trying to convince the Palestinians not to push for a vote on any Security Council resolution related to the settlement decision, Israeli and U.S. officials say.

  • The Biden administration proposed to the Palestinians that instead of a resolution the U.S. would support the release of a presidential statement by the Security Council on the issue of settlements.
  • Such statements are made by the president of the Security Council on behalf of the body. The last time one was published on the Israeli-Palestinian issue was more than six years ago.
  • Palestinian officials have so far rejected the U.S. proposal and want to push for a vote, the officials said.

State of play: The Palestinians must secure the support of at least nine of the 15 members of the Security Council in order for any resolution introduced to be brought to a vote.

  • Israeli officials say they believe the Palestinians will manage to mobilize the support.
  • The Israeli ambassador to the UN and other Israeli officials are holding talks with their Biden administration counterparts to make sure the U.S. vetoes any potential resolution, Israeli officials said.

Flashback: The U.S. has been protecting Israel at the UN for years by using its veto against nearly all resolutions against its ally related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • In December 2016, the Obama administration didn’t veto a Security Council resolution against the settlements. This was the lowest point in the U.S.-Israeli relationship during the Obama era.

What they're saying: Secretary of State Tony Blinken issued a statement on Monday stressing the Biden administration is "deeply troubled" by Israel’s announcement on the new building in the settlements.

  • "We strongly oppose such unilateral measures, which exacerbate tensions and undermine the prospects for a negotiated two-state solution," Blinken said.
  • On Tuesday, the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy issued a joint statement on the issue with similar language.

Go deeper: Abbas rejects U.S. request to not push for UN court opinion on Israeli occupation

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