Fury after US vetoes UN settlements resolution 19Feb11 February 20, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  19 February 2011


A top Fatah leader and former Palestinian intelligence official called Saturday for a “day of rage” against America after the Obama administration blocked a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

Tawfik Tirawi said Palestinians would protest next Friday, a week after the US directed its UN ambassador to kill the draft Security Council resolution even though the 14 other members of the 15-nation council voted in favor.

Tirawi told Ma’an that the move amounted to “blackmail” and exposed the true face of America as well as the extent to which its role in the Middle East peace process harmed Palestinian interests.

America’s refusal to take a real stand against settlements, despite total opposition in the Security Council and longstanding US policy, shows “they are liars who pretend to support democracy and peace. Far from it.”

Tirawi also said the Palestinians would continue to push for statehood even if they suffer a financial crisis absent US funding: “This will not affect our steadfastness and insistence on our rights.”

Asked about the peace process, he said “there will be no negotiations with settlements.”

Israeli officials took an alternative position, praising the vote as beneficial to peace.

“We seek a solution that will integrate the legitimate Palestinian aspirations with Israeli requirement of security and recognition,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 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.”

In New York, US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Washington had “regrettably” chosen to oppose the resolution, sponsored by some 130 countries, after seeking its compromise measure was rejected.

“This draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides,” Rice said. “It could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations.”

Right after the US vetoed the resolution late Friday, Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the PLO, said the Palestinians would have to “re-evaluate the entire process of negotiations.”

Palestinians accuse Washington of failing to do enough to rein in Israeli settlement construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank, which they say is laying down territorial realities on land claimed for a future state.

The United States, which regularly uses its Security Council veto power to stop anti-Israeli initiatives, was very keen to avoid the vote because it does not want to be forced to cast a veto.

It was the first time the United States used its veto power since Obama took office in January 2009.

Palestinian officials said Abbas turned down a request by US President Barack Obama to withdraw the motion for condemnation and settle instead for a council statement calling for a settlement freeze.

His response came Friday during a telephone call between Abbas and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“There is no change in the Palestinian and Arab position about the proposal presented to the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlement on Palestinian land,” it read.

One senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the offer, made in an hour-long phone call from Obama, was accompanied by veiled threats of “repercussions” if it were refused.

“Obama threatened on Thursday night to take measures against the Palestinian Authority if it insists on going to the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlement activity, and demand that it be stopped,” the official said.

“There will be repercussions for Palestinian-American relations if you continue your attempts to go to the Security Council and ignore our requests in this matter, especially as we suggested other alternatives,” the official quoted Obama as telling Abbas.

The US president was referring to a package of incentives laid out earlier this week aimed at persuading the Palestinians to withdraw their support for the draft resolution.

After the Palestinians rejected the initial US offer, Obama rang Abbas to suggest that the Security Council make a call for a settlement freeze.

During the conversation, Abbas rejected that proposal too.

“Stopping settlement activity is a Palestinian demand that will not be taken back because it was the reason the peace process fell apart,” the Palestinian official quoted him as saying.

In the Gaza Strip, Abbas’s rival Hamas said the exchange proved its long-held contention that the White House was not an honest broker in the dispute with Israel.

“This confirms the total support by the American administration for the arbitrary policy of the occupation government,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in the Gaza Strip.

US-brokered peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians stalled in late 2010 after the expiry of a temporary freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.

Efforts by Washington to coax Israel into reimposing a freeze collapsed in December, and the Palestinians are refusing to continue negotiating while Israel builds on land they want for their promised state.


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