News Analysis: U.S. stands by Israel, angers Palestinians

08:58, February 21, 2011      

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The decision by the United States to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, was met with a sigh of relief by Israel but with anger among Palestinians.

The resolution condemned Israeli settlement building on the West Bank and in east Jerusalem, areas that Israel captured in the 1967 war but are seen by the Palestinians as the territory they want for their state.

The U.S. veto blocked a unanimous vote on the resolution by the 15-member Security Council.

Israeli and Palestinian analysts that spoke to Xinhua said that they were not surprised by the U.S. decision, but differed on what the consequences will be for an American role in future negotiations.


"Israel deeply appreciates the decision by President Obama to veto the Security Council Resolution today," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement released after the vote, and said that, "Israel remains committed to pursuing comprehensive peace with all our neighbors, including the Palestinians."

"We seek a solution that will reconcile the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations for statehood with Israel's need for security and recognition," added Netanyahu.

The American veto "is consistent with U.S. policy," according to Dr. Jonathan Rynhold of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. The U.S. has "always opposed to seeing settlements as the crux of the problem," Rynhold said.

Yehuda Ben-Meir of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv believes that the veto was a clear and important statement from Washington.

"The reason is that the Palestinians for the last few months have been playing with this idea that they cannot engage in serious negations, and that international community is going to solve the problem for them," Ben-Meir said.

"It's a message that the U.S. has been sending them for months, and the Quartet (made up of the U.S., the U.N., Russia, and the European Union) says the same thing, they called for a resumption of direct talks," Ben-Meir said.

"The whole world is calling for immediate resumption of direct talks, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to negotiate," he noted. Ben-Meir said that he hoped the American veto would will make the Palestinians realize that "they are not going to get an imposed solution in this area without trying to negotiate."

Following the end of Israel's 10-month freeze on settlement construction in September 2010, Abbas refused to return to negotiations with the settlement building still underway.

The demand for Israel to halt construction was issued by the U. S., but once the freeze ended Washington was unable to convince Israel to extend it, despite significant incentives.

According to Ben-Meir, the Palestinians have been trying to get outside parties to solve the conflict for them for the last 40 years.

"Each time it's somebody else, and they (the Palestinians) must realize that no one is going to impose a solution in the area," Ben-Meir said, concluding that "a solution must come as a result of negotiations in which both sides are willing to compromise."


Dr. Samir Awwad is a professor of international relations at Birzeit University near Ramallah. He told Xinhua that the U.S. veto would not deter the Palestinians from continuing to seek International support and recognition.

Awwad argued that following the vote, the U.S. has lost its ability to be an honest broker between Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians now no longer view the U.S. as impartial mediator, but rather as being squarely on Israel's side in the negotiations, according to Awwad.

Asked what would be the next step for the Palestinians after the veto, Awwad predicted that the Palestinians will opt for support from international law and international organizations and that they "will not be focused on a peace process led by the U.S."

"We will run the whole mile and see what we can achieve, and if nothing works we will demand that the Quartet recognize a Palestinian state with the 1967 border," Awwad said. "If that does not happen because of U.S. objection, then we will stop dealing at all with the Quartet," he said.

Awwad said the Palestinians would bide their time and see how far the diplomatic attempts to gain recognition could go, citing recent letters of recognition issued by South-American countries for an independent Palestinian state to be declared in 2012. Awwad hoped that in the end, 130 nations would offer similar letters of intent.

Commenting on Ben-Meir's remarks that the Palestinians should negotiate instead of seeking recognition, Awwad said that "the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has been waiting for almost 20 years for a peace process to yield any fruits."

He pointed out that the PNA "has signed the Oslo agreement with Israel, which stated that the transition period is going to be five years."

Awwad added that since the start of the peace process, Israeli settlement construction has almost doubled, taking up land, water and other resources that the Palestinians had hoped to use in the future state.

"The peace process, so to speak, gave us nothing," Awwad said, "So yes, we are looking for recognition from the international community because the Quartet, as well as the government of Israel, showed bad faith when it comes to peace."

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