London, Asharq Al-Awsat – As was expected, the US used its veto to put an end to a draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s policy of settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory. This represents the 42nd time that the US has vetoed Arab resolutions condemning Israel. This resolution was voted in favor of by the other 14 UN Security Council members; however the US, as a permanent Security Council member, was able to veto it. US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, told Security Council members that this veto “should not be misunderstood to mean that we support settlement activity” but rather that this issue should be discussed and resolved through direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Asharq Al-Awsat learnt that the US had been trying to convince the Palestinians to withdraw this draft resolution up until the last minute. Informed Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas yesterday and reiterated President Obama’s plea – made in a previous telephone call on Thursday which lasted for 50 minutes – for him to withdraw this draft resolution. However Clinton failed to convince the Palestinian president and the US was forced to veto it. Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah said that President Abbas told Clinton that he had called an emergency meeting of the PLO and Fatah leadership in Ramallah to discuss this matter.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told Asharq Al-Awsat that Obama had telephoned President Abbas on Thursday evening and that while the two leaders did discuss the latest developments in Tunisia and Egypt, much of the call was focused on Obama trying to convince the Palestinian president to withdraw the UN draft resolution.
According to Al-Maliki, Abbas told Obama that this it was too late to think about withdrawing the draft resolution, because “any withdrawal from our side will mean that we will lose credibility, not just in the eyes of the 130 countries that gave their support for the draft resolution, but with the Palestinian and Arab street. We do not want to find ourselves in the same conditions that are prevailing in the region, a condition of clashing with the Palestinian street.”
As for what Washington offered Abbas in return for withdrawing this draft resolution, al-Maliki told Asharq Al-Awsat that this included the issuance of a non-binding UN Security resolution chiding Israel, the organization of a visit for the 15 UN Security Council members to the Palestinian territories to determine the course of events and settlement activity there, this being a Russian proposal. Finally, al-Maliki said that Washington also promised that the forthcoming international quartet statement would include a reference to the 1967 borers.
Al-Maliki also told Asharq Al-Awsat that US President Barack Obama was well aware that vetoing this draft resolution criticizing Israel would negatively affect America’s position in the eyes of the Arab public and harm their interests in the region, particularly during these difficult days that have seen revolutions and uprisings in the Middle East. Al-Maliki said that this proposal represented a final attempt by Washington to convince Abbas to withdraw the resolution, but Abbas refused to change the Palestinian position.
Al-Maliki added that Abbas had called an emergency meeting of the Fatah and PLO leaderships so that they could form and take a unified stance in the face of any repercussions of US anger with regards to the intransigent Palestinian position. Al-Maliki also told Asharq Al-Awsat that he expected the Palestinians refusal to drop this draft resolution to negatively affect their relations with Washington, and that is why it is so important that there is a unified Palestinian position in this regard. However al-Maliki refused to speculate as to how Washington may try to punish the Palestinians for pursuing the UN draft resolution, saying that it is too early to talk about this.