WASHINGTON - The United States vetoed the Palestinian proposal to condemn settlement construction by Israel at the United Nations Security Council Friday.
The other 14 Council members voted in favor of the draft resolution. But the US, as one of the five permanent council members with the power to block any action by the Security Council, voted against it and struck it down.
UN Security Council (Archive photo: Reuters)
Earlier, the Palestinians rejected America's request to withdraw or soften the resolution.
The vote followed a tense day that featured Palestinian rejection of US pressure to avoid the resolution coupled with wild PA attacks on the Obama Administration.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told council members that the veto "should not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity." She added that the US view is that Israeli settlements lack legitimacy.
But she said the draft "risks hardening the position of both sides" and reiterated the US position that settlements and other contentious issues should be resolved in direct peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, speaking on behalf of Britain, France and Germany, condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank. "They are illegal under international law," he said.
He added that the European Union's three biggest nations hope that an independent state of Palestine will join the United Nations as a new member state by September 2011.
Israel's Foreign Ministry expressed its appreciation for the US veto, stressing that direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are the only way to resolve the conflict between the sides.
According to a senior Palestinian official, the US president threatened President Mahmoud Abbas with "repercussions' should the Palestinians go ahead with the vote. However, the PA chose to rebuff the US request and instead leveled harsh accusations at the Administration.
Before the vote, Palestinian legislator and leading PLO member Hanan Ashrawi told CNN: "The Americans have very clearly demonstrated to Palestinians, to Arab public opinion, and to world public opinion that they are biased to the point of destruction."
"If they keep trying to manipulate and water down a resolution to become a statement, and they start selling us used goods again it's not going to work," Ashrawi said.
Meanwhile, the Fatah movement organized a rally in Ramallah to support the Palestinian anti-settlement push and slam the US. The demonstration features racist elements, as protestors carried signs referring to Obama by his skin color, reading "Washington – the black hands support occupation and colonial thinking."
The protestors lauded President Mahmoud Abbas for ignoring US pressure to withdraw the UN proposal.
The Palestinian decision to go ahead with the vote was made unanimously during a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive and the central committee of Abbas' Fatah movement.
"The Palestinian leadership has decided to go on to the UN Security Council to pressure Israel to halt settlement activities. The decision was taken despite American pressure," said Wasel Abu Yousef, a PLO executive member.
Elior Levy, Reuters and AFP contributed to the story