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US rebukes Israel, allows UN condemnation of settlements

The United States allowed the UN Security Council (above) to condemn continuing construction in Palestinian territory as a ‘flagrant violation’ of international law. Manuel Elias/AFP/Getty Images

UNITED NATIONS — Defying pressure from President-elect Donald Trump and lobbying by Israel, the Obama administration Friday allowed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a contentious resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction.

The administration’s decision not to veto the measure broke a longstanding U.S. tradition of serving as Israel’s diplomatic shield.

It came a day after Trump personally intervened to keep the draft measure, proposed by Egypt, from coming up for a vote Thursday, as scheduled. Trump’s aides said he spoke to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both men also spoke to the Egyptian president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Egypt postponed the vote.

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But in a show of mounting frustration, a group of other countries on the 15-member Security Council — all of them relatively powerless temporary members with rotating 2-year seats — snatched the resolution away from Egypt and put it up for a vote Friday afternoon.

It passed with 14 votes in favor, with the United States abstaining.

The departing Obama administration has criticized Israel’s settlement building, describing it as an impediment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump has made clear that he will take a far more sympathetic approach to Israel when his administration assumes office in a month.

Trump’s comments on the issue amounted to his most direct intervention on U.S. foreign policy during his transition to power.

Following the vote, the president-elect tweeted that things for the United Nations would “be different after Jan. 20th.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, had urged the U.S. delegation to block the measure.

“This resolution is a Palestinian initiative, which is intended to harm Israel,” he said in a statement.