Concerns raised over Egypt withdrawal from UN vote on Palestine

Egypt’s withdrawal of the UN Security Council’s resolution on the illegality of the Jewish settlement activity, which was approved by 14 countries on Friday, was said to have raised a “strong sense of disappointment” among Palestinians, especially after it was revealed that Cairo had acted under pressure culminated in a series of contacts between Israel, US President-elect Donald and his transition team and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

The UN resolution proposed by Egypt declares that Israel’s settlements have “no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation under international law.”

The Egyptian foreign affairs ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu-Zeid said in a statement on Saturday that the abrupt withdrawal was an attempt to avoid the resolution being vetoed. “Egypt wanted more time to make sure that no country would use its veto power to block the resolution, especially after US president elect [Donald Trump] called on the current US administration to veto the resolution”, he said.

Sisi’s spokesman, Alaa Yousef, said on Friday that the two presidents had agreed to give Trump’s incoming administration a chance to tackle the issue. “The presidents agreed on the importance of affording the new US administration the full chance to deal with all dimensions of the Palestinian case with a view of achieving a full and final settlement”, he stressed.

The resolution, which stipulates that the establishment of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 has “no legal validity,” was reintroduced by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela and put into vote. Earlier, the four countries – all non-veto-wielding members of the security council – have warned Egypt that if it did not clarify on whether it planned to call the vote, they would press ahead without Cairo’s involvement.

Politicians have condemned Egyptian president’s retreat on the anti-Jewish settlement UN resolution, describing it as “blunder” in Egypt’s foreign relations.

For his part, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousef has described the postponement to the UN vote as “miscalculation” by Egypt, stressing that the Palestinian citizens have trust in Egypt’s stance on the Palestinian case.

Egypt was severely criticised after it backpedalled from filing its resolution, as it is the only Arab country that is currently a member of the UN security council. Before Egypt withdrew its resolution, it was considered almost final and it was assumed that the US would not cast a veto vote.

Israeli settlements have long been seen as a stumbling block in peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. The UN maintains that settlements are illegal. UN officials have reported a surge in construction over the past months.