Feb 20 2011

Another shameful veto

Published by at 1:56 pm under Articles,US-Middle East

By Daoud Kuttab

US President Barack Obama was on the right side of history when he supported the young, nonviolent protesters in Egypt, but his administration will go down in history as unjust after Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, vetoed, on Friday, a UN Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlements illegally build on Palestinians’ lands.

The resolution, supported by 14 countries, including US allies, repeated the exact same language that the Obama administration had used with the Israelis and the Palestinians. Calling Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories illegal merely reflects reality according to international law. The World Court at the Hague has said that Israel’s activities in the occupied territories are illegal.

Last fall, the US held intensive talks with Israel with the aim of restarting Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Palestinians have consistently said that they cannot talk with Israel about the end of the Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state while Israel continues to build illegal settlements for Jews on land earmarked for the state of Palestine.

Washington reportedly told Tel Aviv that if it extends the settlement freeze for a mere three months (thus ensuring the continuation of the talks) the US will make a generous $3 billion military contribution and veto anti-Israel resolutions.

The Obama administration has failed to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks due to the Israeli refusal to honour international law pertaining to its illegal settlement activity.

The logical next step was, therefore, to go to the world body and censure the only state in the world that repeatedly violates international law while claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East.

Europe, Russia – who along with the US and the UN make up the Quartet which is sponsoring the peace talks – agreed with the Palestinian and Arab position and voted in favour of censuring Israel at the UN.

America’s excuse for voting against this resolution is rather lame. The Obama administration stated that supporting (or abstaining from voting) this resolution would aggravate the situation and that the way to resolve differences is through direct talks. With this statement Washington clearly contradicts its previous position, according to which it asked the Israelis asking to freeze settlement activities in order to ensure the restart of the talks.

Actions have consequences. Israel’s flaunting if international law and ignoring the decisions of the Quartet and the rest of the international community should not be allowed to stand.

By refusing to intervene and by forcing the Palestinians to return to the talks on Israel’s terms, the US sending a very dangerous signal. Obama, who just last week stood by the right of peoples to oust dictatorships, has now reversed himself, supporting an oppressive illegal occupation regime.

This US veto not only gives a green light to the Israelis to continue their illegal activities, it also emboldens a shaky right-wing government. By issuing the first veto in his administration, Obama has shown that he is not unlike any of the previous administrations when it comes to Israel.

Palestinians and those who support their legitimate rights can solve things without America, as long as the US does not act so blatantly in defence of aggressive Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ government has been consistent in its rejection of the use of violence in resolving the Palestinian conflict. By going to the UN Security Council, the Palestinian leadership was signalling a continuation of this nonviolent path, not much different from that taken by the courageous people of Tunisia and Egypt.

Palestinian nonviolent rising against the occupiers will now increase, Israel will become more isolated, and international divestment and boycotts of the illegal occupiers will escalate until the people of Palestine can live in peace and freedom.

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