Al Jazeera & Haaretz – 2011-02-19 19:29:00
UN Casts Lone Vote to Block
UN Resolution on Israelâ€™s Illegal Settlements
US Vetoes UN Draft on Israel Settlements
UNITE NATIONS (February 19, 2011) — The US has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as “illegal” and called for an immediate halt to all settlement building. All 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, which was backed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), on Friday.
Mark Lyall Grant,, the British ambassador to the UN, speaking on behalf of his country, France and Germany, condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “They are illegal under international law,” he said. He added that the European Union’s three biggest nations hope that an independent state of Palestine will join the UN as a new member state by September 2011.
The veto by the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world. An abstention would have angered the Israelis, the closest ally of Washington in the region, as well as Democratic and Republican supporters of Israel in the US Congress.
The UN says it opposes settlements in principal, but says that the UN Security Council is not the appropriate venue for resolving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, told council members that the veto “should not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity”.
“While we agree with our fellow council members and indeed with the wider world about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians,” she said.
Palestinians said the veto is counterproductive to the peace process and will help Israel maintain illegal buildings. “The American veto does not serve the peace process and encourages Israel to continue settlements, and to escape the obligations of the peace process,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a close aide to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
Earlier, the Obama administration had tried to exert pressure on the Palestinian Authority to drop the UN resolution in exchange for other measures, but this was rejected by the authority. The decision to back the resolution was made unanimously by the PLO’s executive and the central committee of Abbas’s Fatah movement on Friday, at a meeting to discuss Obama’s appeal to Abbas by telephone a day earlier.
“The Palestinian leadership has decided to proceed to the UN Security Council, to pressure Israel to halt settlement activities. The decision was taken despite American pressure,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO executive member.
Obama, who had said Israeli settlements in territories it captured in a 1967 war are illegal and unhelpful to the peace process, has argued that the resolution could shatter hopes of reviving the stalled talks. In a 50-minute phone call on Thursday, he asked Abbas to drop the resolution and settle for a non-binding statement condemning settlement expansion, Palestinian officials said.
“Caving in to American pressure and withdrawing the resolution will constitute Goldstone 2,” said a Palestinian official, speaking on terms of anonymity before the meeting. He was referring to the wave of protest in October 2009 accusing Abbas of caving in to US pressure by agreeing not to submit for adoption a UN report that accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the invasion of Gaza two years ago. Abbas maintains he insisted on submitting the report.
The Palestinians say continued building flouts the internationally-backed peace plan that will permit them to create a viable, contiguous state on the 1967 land, after a treaty with Israel to end its occupation and 62 years of conflict. Israel says this is an excuse for avoiding peace talks and a precondition never demanded before during 17 years of negotiations, which has so far produced no agreement.
The diplomatic standoff is complicated by the effects of Middle East turmoil on the Arab League, whose members backed the resolution. Egypt, a dominant member, and Tunisia are preoccupied with their transitions from deposed autocracies, and protests are flaring in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.
Washington is trying to revive peace talks stalled since September over Israel’s refusal to extend a moratorium on settlement building and Abbas’s refusal to negotiate further until the Israelis freeze the illegal buildings.
‘Nothing to Lose’
Obama initially pressured Israel to maintain the moratorium only to relent in the run-up to the 2010 US mid-term elections to avoid, some analysts said, alienating key voters. Instead of the resolution, Obama told Abbas he would back a fact-finding visit by a delegation of the UN Security Council to the occupied territories. One PLO official said the leadership was determined not to cave in “even if our decision leads to a diplomatic crisis with the Americans”, adding: “Now we have nothing to lose.”
Since 2000, 14 Security Council resolutions have been vetoed by one or more of the five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US. Of those, 10 were US vetoes, nine of them related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Three Questions for Marwan Bishara
Marwan Bishara / Al Jazeera
DOHA, Qatar (February 19, 2011) — The US has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as “illegal” and called for an immediate halt to all settlement building. All 14 other council members voted in favor of the resolution. Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, answers three crucial questions connected with the issue.
Why did the US veto the draft UN resolution condemning the Israeli settlements?
The Obama administration claims that, if passed, such a resolution would have hardened the position of both sides without advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians and that the ‘Peace Process’, not the UN Security Council, is the venue to tackle such issues. In reality, however, the parties’ positions have already hardened because of the settlements’ proliferation with total impunity.
In Israel, Jewish settlers today make up the hardcore base of its right-wing government (arguably the most extreme in its history). And for their part, the Palestinians have for the last two years rejected direct negotiations as long as settlement activity continued.
Moreover, settlements have been most damaging to the peace process, and its goal of a two states solution.
Since the start of this US-sponsored diplomatic process decades ago, the settlers have quadrupled in numbers from 75,000 to 300,000 scattered in about 200 settlements in the West Bank, and has doubled in cosmopolitan East Jerusalem, making it ever more improbable to separate Palestine from Israel, or establish a contiguous viable state.
Washington’s partners in the International Quartet, the EU, France, the UK and Russia, understand that all too well and hence decided to vote in favour of the draft resolution.
It’s terribly embarrassing for the Obama administration that promised to integrate the US and improve its image around the world, to be seen to be so diplomatically isolated. It’s also humiliating not to be able to pressure Israel to freeze settlement activity and be forced to veto a resolution that was drafted in line with its own declarations.
But Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, says that Washington rejects the legitimacy of these settlements and supports the emergence of a Palestinian state, but that such a resolution would advance neither cause?
Declaring the settlements illegitimate but refusing to call them illegal, relieves Israel from possible sanctions and other international reaction, while at the same time, protecting the US, Israel’s main ally and funder, from possible accusations of complicity.
In reality, settlements have led to terrible instability and further complicated the resolution of the conflict while destroying any hope for the two-state solution in the process. But the Obama administration finds itself all too often nowadays on the wrong side of history, embarrassingly supporting unpopular dictators and occupiers instead of people in their march to freedom.
Allowing Israeli colonization of Palestine to go on unabated and with impunity in the age of de-colonisation doesn’t bode well for wanting to be on the side of history. To escape this uncomfortable position, the Obama administration has been using acrobatic statements and formulas to rewrite history in a way that portrays it supporting peoples’ rights.
Does the US veto risk a backlash in the Arab world?
Washington’s refusal to join the international community in affirming the applicability of international law in Palestine, could further alienate an Arab world already in turmoil.
In fact, it could add fuel to Arab anger and deepen disappointment at those crucial times.
But the Obama administration has been carefully balancing its options between angering Palestinians and Arabs or alienating Israel and pro-Israeli groups in the US. Good to his reputation, the pragmatic president has opted for appeasing Israel and its friends.
When weighing in the costs and benefits of supporting such a resolution, the Obama administration seems to have concluded that angering Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, pales in comparison to angering Israeli premier Netanyahu and his allies in Washington and in Congress.
It’s possible that Netanyahu will reciprocate by offering Obama a tactical compromise to ease the international pressure on both of their countries.
Whether this is in the US national interest or simply in the interests of politics as usual in Washington remains to be seen.
It’s clear, however, that neither the Obama administration nor Congress have internalized the historical transformation sweeping through the Arab region. Rather, it continues to deal with the Arabs and Palestinians with the same imperial mindset that long managed its relations with self-serving Arab dictators and clients, as if nothing has changed in the region.
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Palestinians Plan ‘Day of Rage’ to Protest US Veto on UN Settlement Resolution
Top Fatah official: Next Friday will be a day of Palestinian protest against the US for vetoing a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement building.
TEL AVIV (February 18, 2011) – -Palestinians are planning their own “Day of Rage” to protest the American veto on a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements, Ma’an News Agency reported a top Fatah official as saying on Saturday.
“They are liars who pretend to support democracy and peace. Far from it,” Fatah official and former Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi, referring to the U.S., told the news agency.
The U.S. on Friday voted against a draft resolution against Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Their vote prevented the resolution from being adopted, as the U.S. is one of five permanent members on UN Security Council. The 14 other members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution.
Tirawi said the Palestinians have set Friday for the day when they will officially protest the U.S. veto, which he said amounted to “blackmail.”
Israel, on the other hand, praised the U.S. vote, saying they “deeply appreciate” the veto.
Hamas also weighted in on the vote, saying that it showed the U.S. bias in favor of Israeli occupation.
Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were halted in September after a temporary Israeli settlement freeze expired. Palestinians refuse to return to the negotiating table unless settlement building halts completely, including in East Jerusalem.
See also:” Israel ‘deeply appreciates’ US veto on UN resolution condemning settlements: Prime Minister’s Office thanks Obama for nixing Security Council resolution proposed by Arab states censuring Israeli settlement activity.”