U.S. vetoes U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in West Bank
The Obama administration exercises its first U.N. Security Council veto to kill an Arab-backed resolution calling West Bank settlements ‘illegal.’ The vote was seen by both Israelis and Palestinians as a crucial test of U.S. loyalty.
|A young Palestinian man sits in the foreground of Modin Illit, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank village of Bilin. (Oliver Weiken / EPA)|
Drawing ire from Palestinians and Arab nations, the Obama administration exercised its U.N. Security Council veto power for the first time Friday to kill a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The Arab-backed resolution called Israel’s settlements “illegal” and a major obstacle to Mideast peace talks.
Though the resolution largely echoed long-standing criticism by the U.S. and international leaders about Israel’s construction on land acquired during the 1967 Mideast war, the Obama administration said the U.N. is not the proper forum, and the dispute should be handled during peace talks. U.S.-brokered negotiations broke down last fall over Palestinian protests about settlement expansion.
The vote was seen by Israelis and Palestinians as a crucial test of American loyalty. After two bumpy years between Israel’s right-wing government and the Obama administration, Israelis were hoping for reassurances that it would protect their interests, as past presidents have done. Most recently Israelis accused Obama of “abandoning” his allies in the region, such as deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Palestinians regarded the vote as a measure of Obama’s ability and willingness to act as an unbiased intermediary in Mideast peace talks and stand up to Israeli pressure.
Palestinian Authority officials said Friday that the U.S. veto exposed American hypocrisy in its past promises, noting that Obama has been calling for Israel to halt its settlement expansion since he took office.
Faced with a choice that was certain to alienate one side or the other, the Obama administration worked frantically in recent days to convince Palestinians to withdraw the resolution. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbasand offered to substitute the resolution with a nonbinding statement from the council’s presidency.
Israeli leaders signaled that they would accept the nonbinding statement, but Palestinians dismissed the idea. Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz told reporters in New York that the offer was “too little, too late.”
At a final meeting Friday in Ramallah, Palestinian leaders decided to proceed with the resolution, despite U.S. pressure. Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo declined to comment on whether the U.S. threatened to retaliate against the Palestinian Authority by withholding funds.
An abstention by the U.S. would have infuriated Israelis, who are feeling increasingly insecure because of the fall of the Egyptian government and unrest across the Middle East. Such a vote would also have likely cost Obama political capital at home. Numerous lawmakers from both parties called upon Obama to support Israel by vetoing the resolution.
The U.N. vote is the latest sign that Palestinians are shifting away from relying on U.S.-sponsored peace talks and moving toward a new campaign to secure international recognition for statehood, even without an agreement with Israel.
In recent months, a half-dozen South American countries have joined a growing list of nations formally recognizing a Palestinian state.
Friday’s resolution was seen by some as a dry-run for a possible September effort to seek U.N. recognition of statehood.
Israelis vow to block any such unilateral moves by Palestinians.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing renewed pressure to demonstrate progress on the Palestinian issue, particularly after the loss of Mubarak raised fresh questions about Israel’s landmark 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
Some say Israel should move quickly to pursue peace deals with Syria and the Palestinians to offset what might evolve into a less stable relationship with Egypt.
So far, Netanyahu’s right-wing government has showed no signs of backing away from settlement expansion or imposing a freeze on new construction.
Jerusalem officials are expected to consider next week a proposal to build another 120 housing units on land seized in 1967.
Israel’s settlements have been deemed illegal by the U.N., the International Court of Justice and most Western nations. In the 1980s, the White House began avoiding the term “illegal” in public statements, preferring words such as “illegitimate” or “unhelpful.”
In 1979, under President Carter, the U.S. abstained from a vote on U.N. Security Council Resolution 446, which was approved. The resolution said Israeli settlements had “no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
Obama’s actions in the UN are akin to the US groveling at Abbas’ feet. Obama’s lame actions put the US and Israel in very lame light.
Obama’s lame request to Abbas, again making America look like it’s groveling, to not bring the vote up.
He continues to sell Israel down the river to the Muslims.
UPdated – 8:23
Posted at 12:34 PM ET, 02/17/2011
The White House’s ‘outrageous’ statement on Israel
UPDATE 12:34 P.M.: I spoke with Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) by phone a few minutes ago. He was quite displeased with recent events, observing that “the Palestinians think they have the PR wind at their backs. They see the White House as more malleable and are taking advantage.” He gave some blunt advice, telling the White House to show some “gumption” in turning back the Palestinian demands. He labels the Palestinians’ gambit as an example of “the tail wagging a very flea-bitten dog.”
In less colorful terms, N.Y. Democratic Reps. Nita Lowey and Anthony Weiner are also criticizing the White House.
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) also is blasting the White House: “The Arabs are using the UN to distract the world from the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East: the Palestinians. They have done nothing to prepare their people for peace and refuse to come to the negotiating table, even after Israel made historic concessions on settlements. The U.S. must not fall prey to this cynical tactic and allow the Arabs to continue avoiding negotiations. I call on the Obama Administration to veto any resolutions at the UN and instead push the Palestinians back to negotiations, where they belong.”
Leaders in the Jewish community are using the words “outrageous” and “alarmed” with regard to the White House’s U.N. maneuvering. The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs committee has put out a statement blasting the administration. It reads in part:
Support for this anti-Israel statement is a major concession to enemies of the Jewish State and other free democracies. It telegraphs that the U.S. can be bullied into abandoning critical democratic allies and core U.S. principles. . . .
Offering to criticize our closest ally at the UN isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable. Pretending that criticism of Israel is OK if it comes in a ‘Presidential Statement’ instead of a resolution isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable. Twisting and turning and tying yourself in knots to avoid using our veto to defend our allies and interests isn’t leadership, it’s unacceptable.
As I receive them, I will pass along statements being issued from both Democrats and Republicans on the Hill.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting with senators in a prearranged get-together. The topic is Egypt, but this will surely come up.
The reaction from Democrats and Republicans is remarkably similar: What in the world was the White House thinking?
Obama calls Abbas in bid to prevent UN vote on settlements
U.S. working to prevent vote from taking place at Security Council on Friday, but makes clear it will veto resolution should it come to vote; senior UN diplomat says U.S. not only Security Council member against the vote.
Published 21:53 17.02.11
U.S. President Barack Obama called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday in an attempt to prevent the impending vote on a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
The Palestinian Authority and other Arab nations have pushed that the UN Security Council will vote on the resolution on Friday, and Washington has implored the PA to withdraw the proposal, but so far to no avail.
The U.S. has made it clear that it will veto the resolution should it come to a vote, and it would mark the first time the United States has used its veto power since Barack Obama assumed the presidency.
The point of the resolution, foreign diplomats say, is to highlight Washington’s isolated position on the Security Council, show the Palestinian population that the Palestinian Authority is taking action, and to pressure Israel and the United States on the settlement issue.
Security Council members have carried out unofficial discussions on Thursday evening ahead of Friday’s vote. UN sources told Haaretz that according to the discussions it seems that the United States is not the only member that is against carrying out the vote.
A senior diplomat said that the U.S. isn’t alone in its reservations regarding the vote, and that the five permanent council members do not like votes which force a rift between the permanent members of the Security Council.
The diplomat said that the general feeling that comes from the unofficial discussions between member states it that they would rather go for a move that would not create conflict in the Security Council.
One of the attempts by the U.S. to thwart the vote was to offer a compromise to the Palestinians, that instead of a resolution condemning Israel, the U.S. would support a presidential statement that would call the settlement activity illegitimate, which is not legally binding as a UN Security Council resolution.
Intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts to revive direct peace talks between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed last year over settlement construction.
Israel has repeatedly called for a resumption of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel first agrees to renew its 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement building.