Palestinian hopes of blocking Israeli settlements dim under Trump

Israel East Jerusalem settlement dispute Sidner pkg_00000915
Israel East Jerusalem settlement dispute Sidner pkg_00000915

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    Israeli settlement construction resumes

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Story highlights

  • The Israeli government has recently approved an expansion of 2,500 homes in the West Bank
  • The Security Council discussed the new settlements behind closed doors Wednesday

United Nations (CNN)What a difference a month makes.

Cheered by a US abstention in late December allowing a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel settlement activity to pass, the Palestinians now face the cold reality that the new Trump administration would certainly block UN attempts to stop settlement growth.
Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour is now pressing the council to uphold the controversial settlements resolution, saying that Israel "should not be allowed to get away with it" by constructing more settlements.
    The Israeli government has recently approved an expansion of 2,500 homes in the West Bank in defiance of the resolution, which called for a halt in settlement construction.
    The resolution does not specify sanctions or punishments, but it is now international law and could affect Israel's relationships with other countries down the road.
    The Security Council discussed the new settlements behind closed doors Wednesday. Most countries criticized the settlements but no action was called for. The US, not represented at full ambassador rank yet, did not speak.
    Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog told reporters the settlements "need to be condemned."
    Mansour said the Security Council should "shoulder its responsibilities" and implement the resolution on settlements, which passed after then-US Ambassador Samantha Power declined to use the US's veto power to quash it.
    The new UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday.
    "We are eager to work with her," the Palestinian ambassador said. "We extend our hand to her as a colleague."
    The Trump administration has strongly backed the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and it is highly unlikely Haley will have much maneuvering room when it comes to the Middle East.
    Earlier on Wednesday, Netanyahu promised more settlements: "We came out with one stroke now and there will be more."
    That elicited a negative reaction from some international quarters. UK Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood said in a statement, "We have consistently been clear that settlements are illegal under international law, are not conducive to peace and their construction must stop."
    The settlements could be another point of contention during talks between Trump and UK Prime Minister Teresa May later this week.
    UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday criticized the new settlements, saying there is no Plan B for Middle East peace. "Any unilateral decision can be an obstacle to the two-state goal," Dujarric told reporters.
    A failure to stop Israel from settlement activity would not be unique in UN history. Countless Security Council resolutions have gone unenforced during the UN's 70-plus years.
    The UN Secretary General has been designated to update the Security Council on settlements and the overall Middle East resolution demands next month.