United Nations (CNN) -- The United States vetoed Friday a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that while the United States agrees 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."
The veto is the first to be used under the Obama administration.
Ambassador Riyad Mansour, the permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations, objected to the veto in a statement following the vote.
"The proper message that should have been sent by the Security Council to Israel, the occupying power, is that its contempt of international law and the international community will no longer be tolerated," he said. "We fear, however, that the message sent today may be one that only encourages further Israeli intransigence and impunity. This must be remedied."
Rice noted conversations in recent days between U.S. and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to compromise on the issue of Israeli settlements.
"In recent days, we offered a constructive alternative course that we believe would have allowed the council to act unanimously to support the pursuit of peace," she said. "We regret that this effort was not successful and thus is no longer viable."
Israel praised the veto, saying in a statement that the decision "contributes to the resumption of the diplomatic process and (it) regrets that the other Security Council members have refrained from making the same contribution."
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the resolution and speak about alternatives to a Security Council vote, according to a diplomatic source. Among the options that had been floated, American and Palestinian officials said, was the issuance of a Security Council presidential statement, which is weaker than an actual resolution.
Obama told Abbas that if he didn't withdraw the resolution, it would put the United States in an awkward position and that U.S.-Palestinian relations would suffer as a result, the source said.
"Well, there were attempts at persuasion, (but) let me put it politely: We are even more persuaded by the rights of the Palestinian people," said Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian legislator and Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member. "We are more committed to international law and to the requirements of peace, and all these require that settlement activity should stop and that the Security Council should take a resolution condemning all settlement activities as being illegal and as being in direct contradiction of the requirement of peace."
The PLO met Friday and decided to move forward with the vote, the diplomatic source said, adding that Abbas felt that at a time when so many leaders are either being toppled or facing massive protests, it would make him look weak if he opted for an alternative course.
The Palestinian territories have not had the kinds of demonstrations seen in many Arab countries, but the Fatah leaders of the Palestinian Authority have been under criticism since Al-Jazeera published secret papers claiming to reveal that Palestinian officials were prepared to make wide-ranging concessions in negotiations with Israel.
The Obama administration has been critical of Israeli settlement construction but has not gone as far as to call it "illegal."
Rice reaffirmed the U.S. stance Friday, saying after the vote that Friday's veto should not be "misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity."
"On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," she said.
Since the breakdown of American-brokered talks with Israel in September over the issue of settlements, the Palestinian Authority has been pursuing a policy aimed at unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state by September based on borders from 1967 and in recent months has won recognition from a number of South American countries.
The United States and Israel oppose the unilateral efforts, insisting that all issues in the conflict must be dealt with through direct negotiations.
Following the vote, Israel joined the United States in once again calling for direct negotiations.
"Only thus, and not through seizing the Security Council, will it be possible to advance the peace process so as to benefit both parties and to serve the cause of peace and security throughout the region," said a statement released by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also praised the veto, saying the action prevented "another one-sided, anti-Israeli resolution from being enacted by the U.N. Security Council."
Actually, Dan, I am wondering if a lot of this conversation has been overtaken by current events.
First, there are the upcoming elections in the West Bank and, possibly, Gaza.
Second, the Egyptians can now exercise political leverage on their border with Israel.
Third, the uprisings that have swept through the Arab world and Iran are certainly affecting how Palestinians view their capacity to act.
Fourthly, the leaked papers have revised public opinion with respect to the flexibility in the past of Palestinian negotiating positions. At the same time, they have made it far more difficult for the PA to hold on to those positions.
How do you think these developments are going to factor into the outcome of any future negotiations.
I am very concerned mostly about Egypt and Bahrain. Egypt just had a gathering of the Moslem Brotherhood in Cairo center square of 1 million. If they take over, they will eventually turn Egypt into a Suni Iran - this should be very worry some for all in teh mideast. Especially with teh Suez Canal and teh border with Gaza.
Bahrain has a Shite uprising which is being backed and funded by Iran, who claims teh land to be theirs... All the world needs now is the nutjobs running Iran to get more power and oil.
Elections is Gaza, never going to happen like most similar countries in this situation elections are great to get them in power, they will not give it up easily. West bnk elections, I have no idea all it can do is create another Hamas like entity which will mean the end to any chance of peace and Palestine will loose all international credibility.
Let me make myself clear - yes there have always been demands to halt settlement building ALWAYS - but it was never a pre-condition to talking. Fact is it never stopped discussions. Both Arafat Abu Mazen have negotiated with Israel and contruction never stopped. The proof is in the podding. No article can change that... Was there construction during Oslo1, 2, Wye, Camp David, Taba, Olmert, Livni...the answer is quantifiable YES. It is only now that this excuse is being used for a pre-condition
Dan, the occupation has been going for 43 years. That is 43 years ago Israel agreed to the principle of the inadmissibility of territory in war and for Israel to withdraw from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict. Israel may argue about what percentage of territory it will maintain - but the point is it acknowledges that in principle it agreed to withdraw. The Oslo Accords were signed nearly 20 years ago. Again the principle was that it would withdraw. At what point in time does party A have a right to say enough is enough, you are not demonstrating in good faith you say what you mean. Why is it that Palestinians have to renounce violence in the West Bank as they have done, and yet Israelis can continue to use violence to occupy, build and dispossess?
My sadness is that 2011 will not be a year of peace. It will not be a time we see a new Palestinian state. It will be a time of conflict. There are too many settlers in the occupied territories; and of those there, there are too many that either through ideological or economic reasons will resist moving. The time for a two state solution is eroded every year it fails to come about.
What is needed is courageous leadership from Israel to educate the population the damage occupation does to Israel. This is not forthcoming. Occupation continues to be argued on the basis of security grounds. However, whilst ever settlements continue to be built and territory expanded, Palestinians are left in disbelief that the occupation will indeed end. The future ahead is bleak; and ever more since the US reminded the world of its double standards for vetoing a resolution that was for human rights in Palestine.
Mike it is good you have come on the site to speak up for your friend. I cannot speak for the decision made to freeze Dan's account, as I am not a moderator. What I can say is that I engaged with Dan for a brief time. I appreciated the brief communication we had until I realised I did not feel he was really trying to investigate the perspective I was presenting. Further, I was saddened by his blanket statements of 'Arabs' or his minimisation of the Palestinian narrative and I found this detrimental to the aims of this site. Whilst, certainly disagreement is an opportunity to improve our understanding of a complex situation, that necessarily requires many angles to give some perspective, this must be balanced (on a site like this) with constructive interaction.
Time is required to reflect on discussions. I myself might spend a great deal of time reflecting on an issue (as I did with Dan) and then he would launch back without addressing or minimising those points.
For an example of our discussion see:
My hope is that mepeace can be a constructive place for dialogue. Just repeating nationalist narratives (from which ever side) without fully questioning what we were taught as kids is a recipe for disaster. I hope Dan is able to meet on the ground with mepeace community members. I realise he may feel hurt for being frozen or unjustly treated.
Interaction via this interface itself is fraught with misinterpretation and misunderstandings. But it is better than nothing. Having said this there needs to be clearly enforced rules if members breach guidelines or breach the spirit of constructive dialogue.