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US, Israeli tensions grow after UN vote against settlements

Tensions have intensified between the outgoing administration of US President Barack Obama and Israel after the US allowed the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israel for illegal settlement construction in occupied Palestinian territories.

The Obama administration allowed the UN Security Council resolution to pass on Friday by refusing to veto it, defying extraordinary pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the incoming US president, Donald Trump.

There was applause in the Security Council chamber following the vote, which might be the final bitter chapter in the years of antagonism between Obama and Netanyahu.

The decision to abstain from the council’s 14-0 vote is one of the biggest US rebukes of its long-standing ally in recent history.

The Obama administration has grown increasingly frustrated with Israel’s illegal settlement construction, describing it as an obstacle to peace and a “two-state solution.”

The picture taken on November 3, 2016 shows a partial view of the illegal Israeli settlement of Gilo in East Jerusalem al-Quds. (Photo by AFP)

The US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, raised her hand to abstain in the chamber when the resolution was put to a vote. She said the US chose not to veto the resolution because settlement building has “no legal validity.”

“The United States has been sending a message that settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades,” she said.

US ‘colluding’ with Palestinians: Netanyahu

In a statement, Netanyahu accused the Obama administration of “colluding” with the Palestinians and said he looked forward to working with Trump, as well as Israel-friendly members of Congress, “to negate the harmful effects of this absurd resolution.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (file photo)

Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, reacted angrily to the vote and issued a sharp rebuke at the Obama administration’s role. “It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution,” he said.

The vote came a day after Trump personally intervened to keep the measure from coming up for a vote. Israeli officials said they were aware of such plans by the White House and had turned to Trump for support.

Minutes after the Security Council vote was announced, Trump made his anger known in a Twitter posting, vowing, “As to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20,” referring to his inauguration day.

However, given that most of the world is opposed to Israeli settlements, the UN action will be almost impossible for anyone, including Trump, to reverse.

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