US vetoes UNSC resolution on Israeli settlements

The United States Friday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning all Israeli settlements established in occupied Palestinian territory since 1967 as illegal and demanded a halt to such activity.

The other 14 members of the Council, including US European allies Britain and France voted for the resolution, which demanded that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respects its legal obligations in this regard”.

But as one of the five permanent members, the negative US vote is the equivalent of a veto. The resolution, co-sponsored by over 120 of the UN’s 192 Member States, including Pakistan, also called on both parties to comply with their obligations under the Road Map plan, sponsored by the diplomatic Quartet of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and US, which seeks to establish a two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders.

Despite a flurry of diplomacy from US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Palestinians rejected a compromise move and forced a UN vote on the resolution declaring settlements illegal.

The resolution urged all parties to continue with their negotiations on final status issues in the Middle East peace process and called for the intensification of international and regional diplomatic efforts to support and invigorate the peace process towards achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

After the vote Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a note issued by his spokesperson, called for focusing on efforts to overcome the current impasse, in which the Palestinians are refusing to resume direct talks until Israel stops all settlement activity, and create a conducive environment for progress towards resolving all final status issues.

In explaining her veto, US Ambassador Susan Rice said the vote should not be misunderstood as support for settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, she declared.

Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace. Every potential action must be measured against one overriding standard: will it move the parties closer to negotiations and an agreement Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides.

It could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations and, if and when they did resume, to return to the Security Council whenever they reach an impasse. Palestinian Permanent Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour regretted that the Council had failed to uphold its responsibilities to respond to the crisis.

Our overarching goal remains to bring an end to the Israeli colonization and occupation of our land and its destruction of the two-State solution, he said. “We fear, however, that the message sent today may be one that only encourages further Israeli intransigence and impunity”.

Later, Mansour told reporters that United States was alone in opposing the resolution, which represented global consensus. Israeli Ambassador Meron Reuben called for a resumption of direct talks between the two sides without pre-conditions, noting that settlements are only one of several issues to be settled in final status negotiations. Therefore, the resolution before you should never have been submitted, he said.

Instead, the international community and the Security Council should have called upon the Palestinian leadership, in a clear and resolute voice, to immediately return to the negotiating table.