Arabs furious after US vetoes resolution on Jewish settlements

Sunday, February 20, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Palestinian and other Arab leaders were outraged on Friday when the US effectively vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that condemned the Jewish presence in the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria as illegal.

The Security Council’s other 14 members voted in favor of the resolution, which labeled Jewish communities in the so-called “West Bank” as the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East, and demanded that Israel stop letting Jews build there immediately.

Israel thanked the US for being the single UN member with any sense, and for not joining in wild condemnation of something the UN’s predecessor, the League of Nations, was clearly in favor of, namely, “close Jewish settlement” in all of the territories west of the Jordan River.

The White House was quick to clarify that its vote against the resolution was not an endorsement of the Jews’ right to settle in their ancient heartland.

“We reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” stated US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice. “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.”

Rather, the US vetoed the resolution because it feels the Security Council is not the proper forum to deal with the issue, and that the wording of the resolution would have only made it all the more difficult to resume bilateral peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

That did little to reassure the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials from the ruling Fatah faction began to organize a “day of rage” against the US for this coming Friday, and Nabil Shaath, top aide to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, told Washington that it should be “ashamed.”

Shaath said the Palestinian Authority would be reassessing its entire approach to the peace process in light of the US vote, especially considering that up until now, America had been accepted as the chief peace broker.

Even less courteous were Arab members of Israel’s Knesset.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Ibrahim Sarsour wrote a letter of condolence to Abbas in which he insisted, “We must say frankly to Obama: You no longer scare us and you can go to hell. We knew his promises were lies. The time has come to spit in the face of the Americans.”

A small group of around 50 left-wing Israeli Jews also protested the US veto by gathering outside the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and calling on US President Barack Obama to “stop letting Israel have its way.”

Meanwhile, Abbas declared that Friday’s vote was in fact a victory for the Palestinians, even though the resolution had been defeated.

Speaking to member of the Palestinian Academic Council in Ramallah on Saturday, Abbas noted that the 14 other Security Council Members - including Britain, France and Germany - had all voted in favor of the resolution, and that the motion had a whopping 130 co-sponsors from among the General Assembly.

With that kind of backing, Abbas said, the Palestinians are determined to not resume peace negotiations with Israel until Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and the eastern half of Jerusalem comes to a complete halt.

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