Israel tells US it won’t authorise new settlements in coming months

JERUSALEM (Reuters): Israel will not authorise new settlements in the occupied West Bank in the coming months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Monday, after behind-the-scenes talks to head off a planned U.N. Security Council vote on the contested issue.

Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition on Feb. 12 granted retroactive authorisation to nine settler outposts that had been erected without government approval, angering the Palestinians, who want the West Bank for a future state.

The move also drew condemnation from Western powers and Israel’s Arab partners, who deem all the settlements illegal.

But the United Arab Emirates told the U.N. Security Council it would not call a vote on Monday on a draft resolution against the settlements. Citing “positive talks between the partners”, UAE said the council would instead issue a unanimous statement.

A Security Council vote might have tested Washington’s willingness to cast a veto on behalf of Israel after publicly warning its Middle East ally not to authorise new settlements.

Israel has sponsored some 140 settlements in the West Bank, which it sees as a historical birthright and a security bulwark, while dismantling or turning a blind eye to dozens of outposts.

“Israel informed the United States that, in the coming months, it will not authorise new settlements beyond the nine already approved,” said the statement from Netanyahu’s office.