US vetoes UN resolution condemning settlements as illegal

Resolution not adopted because of US opposition; 14 other Security Council members vote in favor of resolution calling for an immediate halt to all settlement building.

UNSC 311 (photo credit: AP)
UNSC 311
(photo credit: AP)
UNITED NATIONS — The United States vetoed a UN resolution Friday that would have condemned "illegal" settlements beyond the Green Line  and demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.
The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution in Friday's vote, reflecting the wide support for the Palestinian-backed draft which had about 130 co-sponsors.
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The Palestinians insist they will not resume peace talks until Israel halts settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they desire as a capital. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed just weeks after they restarted in September because Israel ended a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction.
Explaining the US veto, US Ambassador Susan Rice said the overriding issue for the Obama administration was whether the resolution would lead to renewed peace negotiations.
"Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides," she said.
Rice said the United States did not want the veto to be "misunderstood" as support for continued Israeli settlement construction.
"We reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," Rice said. "For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace."
It was the 10th US veto on a Mideast issue since 2001 and the first by the Obama administration. The last US veto in the Security Council was Nov. 11, 2006 on a resolution calling for an end to Israeli military operations and the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.
The vetoed resolution would have reaffirmed "that the Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."
It would have reiterated previous council demands "that Israel, the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities..."
The Palestinians rejected US efforts to substitute a weaker Security Council presidential statement for the legally binding resolution and decided to go ahead with a vote after Palestinian leaders meeting in Ramallah earlier Friday gave their unanimous approval.
The call for a UN vote put US President Barack Obama in a difficult position, both internationally and domestically.
In a US attempt to find a compromise, Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke by telephone for 50 minutes on Thursday and Abbas spoke Friday to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rice expressed regret that the US-proposed presidential statement wasn't accepted as an alternative.

It would have reaffirmed that the Security Council "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process." It also would have had the council condemn "all forms of violence, including rocket fire from Gaza" and stress the need for "calm and security" for Israelis and Palestinians.
Several countries took themselves off the list of co-sponsors of the final draft including Syria, which didn't think the resolution was strong enough, and Libya which wants a single state for Israelis and Palestinians.