Representatives vote following closed-door consultations among the 15 Security Council members at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the United States, Feb. 18, 2011. The United States, a permanent Security Council member, on Friday vetoed a UN draft resolution that condemned continued Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and demanded Israel " immediately and completely cease" all such activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The United States, a permanent Security Council member, on Friday vetoed a UN draft resolution that condemned continued Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and demanded Israel " immediately and completely cease" all such activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The 14 other Council members voted in favor of the draft resolution, co-sponsored by more than 120 UN members.
"The draft resolution was not adopted due to a negative vote from a permanent member" of the 15-nation Council, Brazilian UN Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribertro Viotti, who holds the rotating Council presidency for February, announced after the voting.
The vote, which began following closed-door consultations among the 15 Council members, came after the Palestinians refused a compromise offered by the United States in exchange for the withdrawal of the draft resolution.
After her negative vote on the draft resolution, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council that "our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should therefore 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."
"This draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides," Rice argued. "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."
"The United States has been deeply committed to pursuing a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians," she stressed.
"In that context, we have been focused on taking steps that advance the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, rather than complicating it," Rice said. "That includes a commitment to work in good faith with all parties to underscore our opposition to continued settlements."
By the negative vote at the Security Council, the United States once again used its veto power to stop any initiative against Israel -- its close ally in the Middle East.
The draft resolution condemned "the continuation of settlement activities by Israel, the occupying power, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and of all other measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the (Palestinian) territory, in violation of international humanitarian law and other relevant (UN) resolutions. "
The Security Council "reaffirms that the Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace," said the draft resolution.
The Security Council "reiterates its demand that Israel, the occupying power, immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard," the draft added.
The draft resolution also called on both Israelis and Palestinians to "act on the basis of international law and their previous agreements and obligations, including under the Roadmap, aimed at improving the situation on the ground, building confidence and creating the conditions necessary for promoting the peace process."
Speaking at the Security Council meeting after the vote was cast, Riyad Mansor, the permanent Palestinian observer to the United Nations, said: "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."
"We fear, however, that the message sent today may be one that only encourages Israeli intransigence and impunity," the Palestinian ambassador added.
Also speaking after the Council vote, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben said that the only way forward between Israel and the Palestinians is through direct negotiations.
"We reiterate our call to the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, so that negotiations can resume without further delay," Reuben said while addressing the Security Council meeting.
According to Reuben, "Israel continues to demonstrate its willingness to renew talks," and its goal is to resolve "all outstanding issues."
"This goal is within reach," Reuben said.
In his speech Reuben noted that the vote of the United States against the draft resolution "reflects the understanding that the only way forward is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."