Israel reportedly asked Trump for help to avoid UN vote on settlements

The Israeli government asked President-elect Donald Trump to apply pressure on the Obama administration and the United Nations to prevent a Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Reuters reported late Thursday.

The news agency, citing a senior Israeli official, reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government contacted "high level" members of Trump's transition team after failing to persuade the Obama administration to veto the resolution. Allowing the resolution to pass would have reignited a dispute with a key Middle Eastern ally in the waning days of Obama's tenure.

The Israeli official told Reuters Obama's intended abstention from the vote was "a violation of a core commitment to protect Israel at the U.N."

Multiple White House officials declined comment on the Reuters report. There was no immediate comment from the Trump transition team.

Hours before the planned Security Council vote, Trump released a statement urging that the U.S. veto the resolution.

"As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations," the statement read, in part. "This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis."

Later Thursday, Trump spoke to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. A transition official told Reuters the two leaders had spoken about the Middle Eastern peace process.

Then, around two hours before the vote was set to take place Thursday afternoon, Sisi abruptly postponed the planned vote on the settlement resolution, which his country had proposed.

The U.S., as a permanent member of the Security Council, has traditionally used its veto power to block resolutions condemning Israeli settlements, even though it sees them as an obstacle to a peace settlement. But in recent weeks, the Obama administration had been especially secretive about its deliberations, which included what one official described as an unannounced meeting between Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month.

Israel has expressed concern that Obama, who has had an icy relationship with Netanyahu, would take an audacious step in his last weeks in office to revive the peace process, but U.S. officials have said he has nearly ruled out any major last-ditch effort to pressure Israel.

A Security Council resolution would be more than symbolic since it carries the weight of international law. In the past, Obama has refused to endorse anti-Israel resolutions in the council, saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved through negotiations.

Trump, who takes office in less than a month, has indicated a more sympathetic approach to Israel and appointed an ambassador, David Friedman, who has been a supporter of the settler movement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from Reuters.