US Ambassador Susan E. Rice said Saturday that the US vetoed a UN resolution which condemned settlements and called for a freeze on construction should not be "seen as an endorsement of Israel's settlement policies, which the Obama administration has repeatedly denounced." She commented that the draft resolution submitted, however, has the risk of "hardening the positions of both sides and could encourage parties to stay out of negotiations."

Rice added that the resolution risks "undermining US-led efforts to pursue a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians." Rice said that the settlements have, for "four decades" undermined Israel's security situation and hindered the peace process in the Middle East.

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"We will reevaluate the entire negotiation process," top PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said Friday after the UN vote. "The [US] decision was miserable and unbalanced.  It damages the credibility of the US government."


The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, reflecting the wide support for the Palestinian-backed draft which had about 130 co-sponsors.

"The US veto does not serve the peace process and encourages Israel to continue constructing settlements and avoid its commitments in the peace process," aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Nabil Abu Rudeina said. "The veto will complicate matters in the Middle East."

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, called the US veto unfortunate, saying the Security Council failed to respond to the Israeli-Palestinian "crisis" and send "a clear and firm message to Israel that it must ... cease all of its violations and its obstruction of the peace process. We fear...that the message sent today may be one that only encourages further Israeli intransigence and impunity," he said.

Israel remains committed to regional peace with all its neighbors, including the Palestinians and the only way to peace is through negotiations, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Office said overnight Friday.

"We seek a solution that will integrate the legitimate Palestinian aspirations with Israeli requirement of security and recognition," Netanyahu said in a statement. "The US decision makes it clear that the only way to peace is through negotiations. We are ready to vigorously advance negotiations and are interested in beginning the process of achieving secure peace and hope that the Palestinians will join the process."

Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians has and will continue to be the only way to resolve the conflict between the two parties, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement similar to Netanyahu's.

"The distance between Ramallah and Jerusalem is short, and all that is requested of the Palestinians is to return to the negotiating table without preconditions," Palmor said. "Only in this way, and without appealing to the [United Nations] Security Council, can the peace process advance in favor of both parties, and in the favor of peace and security in the region."


Palmor added: "Israel appreciates the US stance which promotes a renewal in the diplomatic process and expresses its regret that other members of the Security Council resisted in helping advance the process."

Israel's UN Ambassador Meron Reuben thanked the US for its veto and called for Palestinian leaders "to return to the negotiating table without preconditions and without delay." The resolution "should never have been submitted," he said, warning that the Palestinian attempt to win approval was "likely to harm" efforts to resume negotiations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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