U.S. Vetoes U.N. Resolution Condemning Illegal Israeli Settlements
by Brett Wilkins
Two days ago we reported that the United States was preparing to back a United Nations resolution against Israel for the Jewish state’s settlement building on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. According to Foreign Policy magazine, the Obama administration informed various Arab governments that it would support a statement re-affirming that the UN Security Council “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity.” Such a move by Washington would have been highly unusual, considering that the US has vetoed dozens of UN resolutions regarding Israeli policies and actions.
Alas, such a remarkable rebuke was not to be. The US would have supported a weak-worded resolution criticizing Israel, but the draft resolution penned by Palestinian leaders proved too much for Washington to accept. It condemned all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and 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 respect its legal obligations in this regard.” Fourteen of the 15 Security Council members, including Britain, voted in favor of the resolution. More than 120 UN member nations signed on as co-sponsors. But President Barack Obama, true to US tradition, vetoed it.
Washington claims that it opposes Israeli settlement building on Palestinian land (ignoring the fact that the entire Jewish state is built on Palestinian land, much of it stolen from the original inhabitants who were violently expelled in a wave of ethnic cleansing that accompanied the founding of Israel); but it believes that bringing the issue before the world body will only act to complicate negotiations in the so-called ‘peace process.’ But the US position is seen as a joke by much of the world. For starters, nothing quite complicates negotiations like the settlements themselves, which have been declared illegal under international law. But Israel, like the US, has little regard for international law when it stands in the way of their plans.
US ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice claimed the American veto by no means meant that Washington supported Israeli settlement building. “On the contrary,” she stated, “we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospect for peace.”
But actions speak louder than words, and Washington’s actions– or lack thereof– send a clear signal that it at best tolerates and at worst supports whatever Israel does. As the Jewish state’s main benefactor, the US has the power to bring Tel Aviv to heel by withholding, or even threatening to withhold, the billions of dollars in annual military and economic aid it gives Israel. But the Negev desert will freeze over before that ever happens.
Palestinians reacted to the US veto with understandable outrage. Ibrahim Sarsour, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament), fumed that President Obama can “go to hell.”
Israel expressed its deep gratitude to the United States for striking down the latest resolution against it. “Israel deeply appreciates the decision by President Obama to veto the Security Council resolution,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
Israel claims it was “prepared to pursue negotiations vigorously” and was “eager to get on” with peace talks with the Palestinians. But recently leaked confidential documents known as the Palestine Papers prove that the Jewish state rejected monumental concessions by Palestinian negotiators, including ceding nearly all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and almost all of occupied East Jerusalem to Israel. In light of these shocking revelations, the good faith of Israeli negotiators is extremely suspect.
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