World Jewish News
Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Meron Reuben speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on February 18, 2011. Photo: AFP Copyright 2011
Israel calls for direct peace talks to resume after US veto at United Nations
20.02.2011, International Organizations
Israel on Friday called for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table without preconditions after the United States vetoed a UN Security Council vote condemning Jewish settlements.
"It's a short way between Ramallah and Jerusalem, and all the Palestinians should do is to return to the negotiating table without preconditions," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement.
"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."
Fourteen of the 15 Security Council members voted in favour of the resolution which condemned Israel's settlement activity and called for a halt to it.
But Washington used its veto, effectively killing the resolution, in the first time the administration of President Barack Obama has wielded such power at the United Nations.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said Washington was "regrettably" opposing the draft resolution and warned it should not be seen by Israel as support for continued settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
"Israel appreciates the American position, which contributes to the resumption of the diplomatic process, and regrets that the other Security Council members have refrained from making the same contribution," the Israeli statement said.
US-brokered peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians stalled in late 2010 after the expiry of a temporary freeze on settlement building in the West Bank.
Ahead of Friday's vote, the United States had put increasing pressure on the Palestinians to drop their backing for the resolution, but to no avail, with president Mahmud Abbas even rejecting a direct appeal from US President Barack Obama.
Obama had suggested that the Security Council would instead issue a non-binding statement calling on Israel to implement a settlement freeze. But Abbas refused.
One senior Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the offer, made in an hour-long phone call from Obama, was accompanied by veiled threats of "repercussions" if it were refused.
"President Obama threatened on Thursday night to take measures against the Palestinian Authority if it insists on going to the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlement activity, and demand that it be stopped," the official said.
"There will be repercussions for Palestinian-American relations if you continue your attempts to go to the Security Council and ignore our requests in this matter, especially as we suggested other alternatives," the official quoted Obama as telling Abbas.
The US president was referring to a package of incentives laid out earlier this week aimed at persuading the Palestinians to withdraw their support for international community, including the United States -- but Washington does not believe such issues should be tackled within the Security Council.