On Friday, the United States declined to veto a United Nations resolution condemning Israel for building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Ultimately, the United States abstained from the vote, which was put before the U.N. Security Council, and the 14 other countries voted for the resolution. The move to abstain marked a significant departure in U.S. policy, with many viewing it as an anti-Israel gesture on the global stage.
Part of the complication with the resolution is that it was not only about the settlements, but also called for the global community “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” As the Times of Israel noted, that language has left many Israeli officials concerned that the resolution will "lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts."
The United Nations often exhibits a decidedly anti-Israel bias. For example, in 2015, according to U.N. Watch, the U.N. General Assembly adopted 20 resolutions specifically critical of Israel — and just three others on other countries. There was one criticizing Iran, one criticizing North Korea, and one criticizing Syria. Thus, Israel faced 20 times the level of U.N. censure as each of these three massive human rights violators.
The United Nations, which refused to act on Syria or genocide in Sudan (today!), applauds itself for symbolic resolution condemning Israel.— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) December 23, 2016
Historically, the United States has served as an ally of Israel in global conflicts, but it has moved away from that role under the Obama administration. It could also ultimately change the United States' relationship with the United Nations. As the Washington Post reported, some U.S. senators had threatened to cut funding to the United Nations and countries that supported the resolution. Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, publicly called on the United States to veto the resolution.
In explaining the decision not to veto the resolution, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said, "Our vote today does not in any way diminish the U.S.'s steadfast support for Israel."
President-elect Donald Trump had been in talks with Egypt to try to delay the vote on the resolution from happening. Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi released a statement that he and Trump believed in "the importance of giving a chance for the new American administration to deal in a comprehensive way with the different aspects of the Palestinian issue."
Shortly after the resolution passed, Trump tweeted, "As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th."