PA calls for 'day of rage' after UNSC veto

Israel urges resumption of direct peace negotiations; Palestinians call protest against US vetoing UNSC condemnation of settlements.

By
February 19, 2011 17:38
Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad at Bethlehem mass

Abbas, Fayyad at Bethlehem mass 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

Palestinians on Saturday called for a “day of rage” this Friday to protest against the US administration’s decision to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israel for building in the settlements.

Expressing outrage over Friday’s veto, the Palestinian Authority threatened to reassess its position on the Middle East peace process.

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Israel, in contrast, welcomed the veto and called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

Friday’s “decision by the US makes it clear that the only path to... peace will come through direct negotiations and not through the decisions of international bodies.

“We are prepared to pursue those peace negotiations vigorously and are eager to get on with the work of achieving a secure peace,” said the Prime Minister’s Office. “We hope the Palestinians will join us in that effort as soon as possible.”

Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel until it halts settlements activity and instead have pursued international recognition of statehood and UN resolutions on the matter, such as the one it brought before the Security Council on Friday.

As one of five permanent Security Council members with veto power, the US was able to block the anti-settlement resolution even though it had the support of the 14 other members, including Britain, Germany and France.

The measure was submitted by Lebanon on behalf of the Palestinians after intensive American diplomacy failed to keep it from being considered.

Netanyahu’s office said after the vote that “Israel deeply appreciates the decision by President [Barack] Obama to veto the Security Council Resolution.

“Israel remains committed to pursuing comprehensive peace with all our neighbors, including the Palestinians. We seek a solution that will reconcile the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for statehood with Israel’s need for security and recognition,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The PA said it was now considering going to the UN General Assembly with a request to issue a similar resolution condemning construction in the settlements. Just two months ago, the assembly passed a resolution – which had the approval of 159 out of 192 UN member states – calling on Israel to halt settlement activity. Only six nations, including Israel and the US, opposed it.

In Ramallah, a senior PA official said that President Mahmoud Abbas had come under heavy pressure from the US administration to withdraw the resolution, but had refused to comply.

Abbas told a group of Palestinian academics that he had held fast to his position and chosen to put the interests of the Palestinians above all considerations.

He cautiously said that Palestinian diplomacy scored a real victory after 14 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the controversial resolution.

“We are not seeking to boycott the US administration and it’s not in our interest to boycott anyone,” Abbas stressed. “But we just want to protect the legitimate rights and interests of our people in accordance with international law.”

Obama had phoned Abbas hours before the Security Council session and urged him to withdraw the resolution, which was presented on behalf of the PA by a number of Arab countries, the official said.

In response, Abbas called an emergency meeting of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee to discuss what some officials described as Obama’s “threats.” The two committees rejected Washington’s demand and gave the PA leadership a green light to go ahead and bring the resolution for a vote to the Security Council. The committees also called on the US to refrain from vetoing the resolution, saying the Palestinians would not succumb to pressure from any party.

PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo said that in addition to Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and some EU leaders had also attempted to persuade the PA to withdraw the resolution, but to no avail.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, “Even as the Middle East is undergoing changes that carry historical meaning for the future of the whole region, it is indeed peculiar that the Security Council should choose to consider one single aspect out of the full range of core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, while ignoring the wider scope of events in our region.”

The ministry added that it regretted that the other Security Council members had not followed the US lead.

“It’s a short way between Ramallah and Jerusalem, and all the Palestinians should do is to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Only thus, and not through seizing the Security Council, will it be possible to advance the peace process,” said the Foreign Ministry.

Hanna Amireh, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, rejected such calls and said that the Palestinians were determined to pursue their diplomatic efforts to hold Israel responsible for the failure of the peace talks.

The PA leadership also organized street protests in support of its position. Dozens of Fatah activists demonstrated in Ramallah, Kalkilya, Hebron and Jenin and condemned the US for being “biased” in favor of Israel.

The protesters hailed Abbas for resisting American pressure to withdraw the resolution against the settlements.

Some Palestinians, including Tawfik Tirawi, a former Fatah security commander, called for organizing the “day of rage” against the US next Friday.

Tirawi said that the veto “exposed America’s real face and the extent to which it is biased in favor of oppression and occupation.”

In response to reports that the US had threatened to cut off financial aid to the PA if it insisted on presenting the resolution to the Security Council, Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said that the Palestinians “want to get rid of occupation and are not only waiting to earn their living.”

The US Administration should support the Palestinians and not block freedom and independence, Assaf said. He added that Fatah was planning more anti- US demonstrations in the West Bank in the coming days.

“US threats to cut off the aid show that that the Americans are ignorant of our people’s moral and national values and aspirations,” read a statement issued by Fatah the leadership.

“The US veto is a victory for occupation and settlements.”

Fatah said that the veto harmed Washington’s status as a major broker in the peace process and encourages Israel to continue building in the settlements.

Hamas also condemned the US veto, saying it exposed Washington’s bias in favor of Israel.

“The US veto is an award to the occupation government for its violations against the Palestinians,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.


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