Israel has said it will pause building new settlements in the occupied West Bank for “the coming months”.
The move appears to be the fruit of behind-the-scenes talks by the US with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
It comes as Palestinian leaders are being heavily criticised for agreeing to the withdrawal of a United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution on settlements.
The council instead issued a symbolic statement expressing “deep concern and dismay” at recent developments.
Last week, Israel announced the legalisation of nine unauthorised outposts and approved the planning and building of nearly 10,000 new housing units in existing settlements.These steps are not expected to be reversed.
Washington had previously publicly warned Israel, its closest Middle Eastern ally, not to authorise new settlements.The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
When the earlier announcement on settlements was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US joined European governments – France, Germany, Italy and the UK – in saying it was “deeply troubled”.
However, it also said it was “unhelpful” when the Palestinians went on to draft a Security Council resolution, to be put forward by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The resolution would have reaffirmed “that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.
It would have been embarrassing for the US if it had been forced to use its veto power at the Security Council to protect Israel, as it often has in the past.
When the UAE informed the council that it would not call a vote, it cited “positive talks between the partners”, and said that its president would issue a statement instead. Such statements reflect consensus but are not legally binding.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which formally represents the Palestinian people at the United Nations (UN), has not officially commented. Neither have officials from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which, like the PLO, is headed by the President, Mahmoud Abbas, and which governs parts of the West Bank. —BBC