The resolution declares settlements constructed on land Israel has occupied since the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem, have “no legal validity.” It said settlements threaten the viability of the two-state solution, and it urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations that lead to two independent nations.
The United States’ abstention Friday was a rare rebuke to Israel, and reflected mounting frustration in the Obama administration over settlement growth that the United States considers an obstacle to peace. With President Obamas time in office due to end in barely a month, his decision not to veto was a symbolic statement of that displeasure.
“In the absence of any meaningful peace process, as well as in the face of the acceleration of settlement activity that put at risk the viability of a two-state solution, we took the steps we did today,” said Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.
Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., excoriated the Security Council after the vote, saying they did not have the right to tell Israelis not to build in Jerusalem, and suggesting it will have little impact on Israeli policies.
“We overcame those decrees during the time of the Macabees, and we will overcome this evil decree today,” he said.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said immediately after the vote that Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry have privately and publicly been warning Israel that the moribund prospects for peace were undermining Israel’s ability to remain both Jewish and democratic.
The resolution also condemned Palestinian incitement to violence and all acts of terrorism. Power said the United States would not have allowed its passage without that proviso. She also criticized the United Nations itself, saying it had perpetuated a double standard by repeatedly condemning Israeli actions while remaining silent about Palestinian incitement.
The 14-0 vote, with only the United States abstaining, followed an intense campaign from Israel to derail it. It was to have been voted on Thursday, but Egypt withdrew its sponsorship after the country’s president spoke by phone with President-elect Donald Trump, who got involved at Israel’s request. Friday’s resolution was sponsored by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal.
The 14-0 vote, with the United States the only member abstaining, brought a swift reaction, particularly in Israel and in Congress.
“This is absolutely shameful,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement, promising that next year, “our unified Republican government will work to reverse the damage done by this administration, and rebuild our alliance with Israel.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said abstaining made the United States “complicit in this outrageous attack” on Israel, and predicted the resolution “will serve as yet another roadblock to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and embolden the enemies of Israel.”
Meanwhile Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that deals with foreign aid, threatened earlier on Friday to reduce the U.S.’s contributions to the United Nations and any country that voted for resolution.
After the vote, Graham tweeted that “Obama-Kerry foreign policy has gone from naive and foolish to flat-out reckless. With friends like these #Israel doesn’t need any enemies.”
In Israel, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the resolution was not only against settlements but was also anti-Israel and against Jews everywhere.
“After eight years of friendship with Obama and joint work, this move hurts and is unfair,” he said.
But Israel’s U.N. ambassador Danny Danon expressed disappointment with what he called “this disgraceful resolution.”
“I have no doubt that the new US administration and the incoming UN Secretary General will usher in a new era in terms of the UN’s relationship with Israel,” he said.
Ruth Eglash, Karoun Demirjian and David Nakamura contributed to this report. Eglash reported from Jerusalem.