Jerusalem calls off settlement building permit vote


A municipal committee has canceled a vote on issuing settlement permits in eastern Jerusalem. The move came amidst bitterness toward the Obama administration from Prime Minister Netanyahu.

A Jerusalem city council at a meeting on Wednesday nixed a planned vote on issuing permits for hundreds of new settlement homes. The move was reportedly prompted by a desire to avoid further straining relations with Washington ahead of a speech by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Israel and Palestine.

Council member Hanan Rubin told Reuters news agency that the request to call off the vote came directly from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister has refused to back down from settlement construction, despite a recent UN resolution demanding “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem.”

Netanyahu went on the offensive after the UN vote, summoning ambassadors whose countries had supported the measure on Christmas Day, vowing to revoke funding for some UN institutions.

Netanyahu: US abstention ‘shameful’

He also slammed the administration of Barack Obama for abstaining from the vote, calling it a “shameful anti-Israel step,” after decades of direct support from the US. Obama and some of his predecessors have made no secret of the fact that they see the building of settlements as a hindrance to peace efforts.

The US neglecting to exercise its veto power allowed the resolution to pass by 14-0 at the Security Council, the first time the UN has officially condemned Israel’s settlement policy since 1979.

Kerry was set to give a speech later on Wednesday outlining a vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The speech is part of a last-ditch push by the Obama administration to entrench its commitment to resolving the conflict before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. During campaigning and since winning the US election, Trump has made indications that his foreign policy would be friendlier towards Netanyahu and Israel, including when it comes to Israeli settlement building.

es/sms (AFP, Reuters)