Minutes after the US cast its veto in the Security Council on an Arab draft resolution on Israeli settlements, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour late Friday said the Arab group is now evaluating all options, including calling for the resumption of the General Assembly’s emergency session.
“We are evaluating all of our options. We are not rushing into any specific action. We will evaluate the situation with our friends. We will consult with them to decide the next step,” Mansour told reporters following the US veto.
Asked to confirm press reports that the US threatened to cut assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the draft resolution is put to a vote, Mansour said “we build our relations with all countries, including the US, on the basis of mutual respect and non interference in each others’ affairs.”
The daft resolution, sponsored by some 125 member states, would have reaffirmed that the Israeli settlements established in the occupied land since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are “illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Mansour told the Council following the vote that the proper message that the Council should have sent to Israel was that its contempt for international law and the international community would no longer be tolerated.
He said he was afraid, however, that today’s result might only encourage further Israeli intransigence and impunity. That must be remedied, lest the prospects of a negotiated two-State solution be placed in final jeopardy, he warned.
Israeli envoy Meron Reuben told the Council that direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians had been and would remain the only way to resolve the long-standing conflict between them and the draft resolution should never have been submitted.
He said it was neither fitting nor constructive to isolate the issue of settlements from other core matters, such as security assurances and refugees and to bring it to the Council.
With all the events currently taking place in North Africa and the Middle East, he argued, one wonders whether the issue under discussion today “is really the most relevant for discussion in this Chamber.”
US Ambassador Susan Rice told the Council after casting the US veto that “our opposition to the resolution before this Council today 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.”
“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. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution,” she said.
For more than four decades, she argued, 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.
Every potential action must be measured, she stressed.
“Will it move the parties closer to negotiations and an agreement? Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides. It could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations and, if and when they did resume, to return to the Security Council whenever they reach an impasse.”
She said the great impetus for democracy and reform in the region “makes it even more urgent to settle this bitter and tragic conflict in the context of a region moving toward greater peace and respect for human rights.”
“But there simply are no shortcuts. We hope that those who share our hopes for peace between a secure and sovereign Israel and Palestine will join us in redoubling our common efforts to encourage and support the resumption of direct negotiations,” she added.
Other Council members, including the UK whose Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant spoke on behalf of France and Germany, also explained that they had voted in favour of the draft because it was their long-standing position that the settlements were “illegal, constituting an obstacle to negotiations towards peace and a two-State solution.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s press office issued a statement following the Council vote saying “action in the Council is a decision for Member States to make.”
It recalled, however, that the Secretary-General’s position on settlements is well known.
“Now, we must focus efforts on overcoming the current impasse and creating a conducive environment for progress towards resolving all final status issues.”
It noted that the international community agrees on the urgent need for a negotiated settlement that will end the occupation that started in 1967 and establish an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel.
“We must do all we can to help the parties move forward,” it urged.