Monday, February 21, 2011

US Vetos UN Resolution Condemning Israeli Settlements

The Alternative Information Center reports:

The United States has vetoed a draft UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory on Friday (18 February). The other 14 members of the United Nations Security Council all voted in favor of the resolution, which was sponsored by at least 130 countries.

The resolution declared that Israeli settlements in Palestinian Territories are illegal and a "major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

The move comes as no surprise, gives the United States staunch support of Israel, although it is not in line with the Obama administration’s supposed support for the Palestinians and potential state building.

"While we agree with our fellow Council members and indeed, with the wider world about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians," said US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, during the vote. "We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution."

"Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides," Rice said.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the move should wake up Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"This is an arbitrary and outrageous decision against the Palestinian people," Barhoum told AFP. "It should push the PA to adopt a strategy of unity... and take a national decision to end all forms of negotiations with" Israel.

Israeli Knesset Member Ibrahim Sarsour, of the United Arab List, wrote in an open letter to Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, in which he says: “After the exposure of lies from the US, we must say frankly to Obama: You no longer scare us and you can go to hell.”

“Obama cannot be trusted. We knew his promises were lies. The time has come to spit in the face of the Americans,” Sarsour wrote.

President Abbas acknowledged the success of the gained 14 votes, and responded to the veto.

“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.”

"The veto, which contradicts the American public stance rejecting settlement policy, will lead to more damage of the United States' credibility on the Arab side as a mediator in peace efforts," the Egyptian foreign ministry in Cairo said.

The Palestinian Authority is now considering submitting another resolution UN General Assembly, this time specifically condemning settlement construction.

Following the end of Israel’s partial settlement freeze in the fall of 2010, there has been a settlement housing boom, with growing numbers of construction and project approvals.

120 new housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramot were approved by the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee on Monday, 14 February.

On 7 February the committee approved a plan for 13 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah, which will require the eviction of Palestinian families and the destruction of their home.

On 31 January, the cornerstone was laid for a newly approved settlement project being built on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. The new neighborhood is called Beit Orot, and will house 24 new residential units.

The Jerusalem Municipality is also working on approval for the construction of 1,400 new housing units in East Jerusalem’s Gilo colony, in addition to the 130 new housing units already approved in the East Jerusalem settlement neighborhood in November 2010.

Saeb Erekat, who stepped down from his position as chief Palestinian negotiator last week, responded to UN vote saying "Israel has stripped the Palestinian Authority of its meaning, and [its usefulness] as a tool for the independence of the Palestinian people should be reconsidered.”

Popular protest rallies were held were held Saturday in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Tul Karm, Ramalla, Hebron and Jenin, among others. Fatah Central Committee member Tawfik Tirawi called for a "day of rage" against the U.S. veto.