In sharp reversal, US agrees to rebuke Israel in Security Council

Colum Lynch
Turtle Bay

The U.S. informed Arab governments Tuesday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal.

But the Palestinians rejected the American offer following a meeting late Wednesday of Arab representatives and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution on Friday, according to officials familar with the issue. The decision to reject the American offer raised the prospect that the Obama adminstration will cast its first ever veto in the U.N. Security Council.

Still, the U.S. offer signaled a renewed willingness to seek a way out of the current impasse, even if it requires breaking with Israel and joining others in the council in sending a strong message to its key ally to stop its construction of new settlements. U.S. officials were not available for comment, but two Security Council diplomats confirmed the proposal.

The Palestinian delegation, along with Lebanon, the Security Council’s only Arab member state, asked the council’s president late Wednesday to schedule a meeting for Friday. But it remained unclear whether the Palestinian move today to reject the U.S. offer is simply a negotiating tactic aimed at extracting a better deal from Washington.

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, outlined the new U.S. offer in a closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group, a bloc of Arab countries from North Africa and the Middle East. In exchange for scuttling the Palestinian resolution, the United States would support the council statement, consider supporting a U.N. Security Council visit to the Middle East, the first since 1979, and commit to supporting strong language criticizing Israel’s settlement policies in a future statement by the Middle East Quartet.

Read the rest at Turtle Bay.

Update: At, Capitol Hill consensus: Obama screwed up on UN settlement resolution:

…Not only did Obama sell out Israel and anger both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, he wound up with nothing to show for it anyway:

The Palestinians said the U.N. Security Council will vote Friday on a resolution to condemn Israeli settlements, rejecting a compromise proposal by the United States as too little, too late.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. observer, made the announcement after a closed-door meeting late Wednesday of the 22-member Arab Group, which endorsed the decision. He called settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital, the “main obstacle” to the resumption of peace negotiations with Israel and said construction must stop.

Calling for a vote now, Mansour said, “is our effort to respond to what is happening in the Middle East by not putting the issue of the Palestinian question on the back burner but to put it on the front burner.”

The big question now will be whether the US will veto the resolution, or abstain from the vote…

Update: GatewayPundit has more.

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