The United States on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the controversial security barrier Israel is building across part of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
Using its veto power on the UN Security Council for the second time in two months to block a measure criticising Israel, US ambassador John Negroponte spiked the resolution, which had been put forward by Syria, the lone Arab nation on the council. “The resolution put forward today was unbalanced and did not condemn terrorism in explicit terms”, he said. The United States last month killed another measure criticising Israel for its threats to expel Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from the West Bank.
Ten nations on the 15-member council voted in favour while four - Britain, Bulgaria, Cameroon and Germany - abstained. The five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - have veto power.
The United States regularly insists that Middle East resolutions must condemn Palestinian militant groups responsible for the attacks inside Israel. Negroponte said the United States still believes that the way forward to Middle East peace was the “road map” peace plan sponsored by the so-called “quartet” of Washington, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
But Palestinian UN representative Nasser al-Kidwa said the plan effectively had ceased to exist with the ongoing building of the wall. “You cannot have this construction of the expansionist wall and simultaneously pretend that the road map exists. It’s either/or,” he said after the vote. “The inability of the council to take a firm stand in this matter of strategic importance - that is, the expansionist separation wall - is very alarming.”
The vote came after an hours-long council debate at which dozens of nations took the floor and blasted the wall, which Israel insists is a last-ditch measure needed because the Palestinians have failed to crack down on militants.
In the debate, Kidwa called the wall a “war crime” and said it had resulted in the seizure of large tracts of Palestinian land and kept tens of thousands from earning their livelihoods. “To restate the obvious, the expansionist conquest wall, in its parts and its entirety, is illegal,” he said.
His Israeli counterpart, ambassador Dan Gillerman, told reporters: “Morally the US would have no choice but to veto this resolution.” Gillerman said the arguments against the barrier were “clear” but that Israelis felt they had no choice but to build the wall because of the ongoing Palestinian attacks. “Had there been any concerted action by the Palestinian side to confront and prevent the terrorists, as they have repeatedly undertaken to do, the security fence might not have been necessary,” he said.
German ambassador Gunter Pleuger said his nation had abstained out of fears that the split in the quartet - with Europeans divided, Russia in favour and the United States opposed - was a danger to the peace process. “That’s not good for the credibility and the effectiveness of the quartet,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority Wednesday denounced the US veto, saying it gave a “green light” to continue construction. “The Israelis will consider this veto as a green light to continue the construction of the wall and the settlements,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said. “The Israeli behaviour, with the construction of the wall and the settlements, the incursions … deserve condemnation and not encouragement from the United States.”