Plans to vote on Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East peace deal at the United Nations Security Council were aborted just hours before it was due to take place.
Boris Johnson’s UK Government faced the prospect of having to defend Trump in the world forum, despite vehement Arab and European opposition to US plans to recognise West Bank settlements.
The vote, pushed by Tunisia, had been due to take place on Tuesday, and was supported by a Palestinian leadership buoyed by unequivocal public support from across the Muslim world since Trump announced a plan welcomed by Israel.
However, while US opposition to the Security Council vote was expected, the UK also raised concerns about the draft text. Analysts are watching to see if Britain’s long-standing foreign policy positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shift, as the Government eyes a free trade deal with the US.
The UK, one of five veto-wielding permanent UN Security Council members, which was thought likely to abstain, sought changes to the draft, adding a call for Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Such has been the pressure reportedly exerted by the United States on the other 14 Security Council members that Tunisia withdrew its UN ambassador in protest, as the White House desperately tried to avoid being diplomatically isolated.
London and Washington have frequently differed on the issue of Israel, most recently in December 2017, when the UK voted in favour of a motion declaring Washington’s designation of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital to be “null and void”. The British foreign secretary at the time was Boris Johnson.