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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Vetoes UN Plan To Halt Israeli Push


UNITED NATIONS -- The United States has used its UN veto to kill a Security Council resolution calling on Israel to rescind the expropriation of Arab land in East Jerusalem, prompting an angry reaction Thursday from the Palestine Liberation Organization.

All 14 other council members voted for the draft. But the negative vote by U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, one of the five permanent members, was enough to block it.

Nabil Shaath, head of planning in the Palestinian Authority, said in a statement that the veto was "a negative decision which may threaten the peace process as a whole."

Marwan Kanafani, spokesman for PLO head of Yasser Arafat, said the veto shook Palestinian trust in Washington and contradicted the Israeli-PLO peace deal and international accords.

"The United States has lost its status as an honest broker," Kanafani said. "It is like having a third man in the ring rooting for one of the fighters."

The U.S. veto climaxed a debate, begun last Friday, on Israel's plans to expropriate 53 hectares of land in areas of Jerusalem captured in the 1967 Middle East war to build houses for Israelis. The move has angered the PLO, which wants the east side of the city as capital of a future Palestinian state.

Albright said she was casting the veto "reluctantly, but without hesitation," on an issue of principle.

"The principle is this: The only path to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is direct talks between the parties."

She said the United States was compelled to oppose the resolution because "the council sought to declare itself on a 'permanent status' issue -- Jerusalem -- and thus violated this principle."

Albright was referring to those especially problematic issues -- of which the status of Jerusalem is one -- which do not have to be discussed by Israel and the PLO until next May, according to the 1993 accord between the two sides.

However just after the veto, Palestinian negotiators at a multilateral peace conference in Switzerland asked Israel for immediate bilateral talks on the status of Jerusalem.

"Maybe in one year I'll find no land to talk about," chief Palestinian negotiator Faisal Husseini told reporters. Diplomats said they doubted Israel would agree to a speeding up of the timetable.

Albright's veto was the 70th by the United States in the UN's 50-year history and the first under the Clinton administration. The last U.S. veto came in May 1990 to prevent the establishment of a Security Council commission to examine Israeli policies and practices in the occupied territories.

Russia and the Soviet Union have cast 116 vetoes, most recently last December over Yugoslavia. Britain has used the veto 30 times, France 18 and China in three instances.

Other Arab organizations and nations also criticized the U.S. veto. The Arab league said the move would end up hurting peace talks.

"This regrettable decision is harmful not only to the name of the United States and its interests in the region, but also to the Middle East peace process," said Adnan Omran, the Arab League's undersecretary general in Cairo.

Egypt and Lebanon also issued statements blasting the action, while Moslem militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, raised the possibility of a violent response.

The vetoed resolution was sponsored by the council's six non-aligned members -- Botswana, Honduras, Indonesia, Nigeria, Oman and Rwanda. It was a milder version of one originally drafted by Arab delegations that would have condemned or deplored the Israeli action.

Incorporating amendments by the council's European Union members -- France, Germany, Italy and Britain -- the vetoed resolution would have confirmed "that the expropriation of land by Israel, the occupying power, in East Jerusalem is invalid and in violation of relevant Security Council resolutions and provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949."

It would have called on Israel to "rescind the expropriation orders and to refrain from such action in the future."

The draft would also have expressed full support for the Middle East peace process and urged the parties to adhere to agreements already reached. ()