WASHINGTON – In a dramatic departure from longstanding policy, the United States intends to support a United Nations Security Council resolutions censuring Israel for building settlements in Palestinian territory.
The Obama administration told Arab governments Tuesday it will back a draft resolution saying the Security Council "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," according to Foreign Policy magazine.
The language, which was confirmed to Foreign Policy by two Security Council diplomats, calls the Israeli settlements "a serious obstacle to the peace process." It says the Security Council "condemns all forms of violence, including rocket fire from Gaza, and stresses the need for calm and security for both peoples."
The Obama administration has used similar language to criticize Israel on settlements, but has not supported any such UN resolution condemning Israel. Doing so would constitute a significant US policy shift towards its ally.
But the US also intends to veto a stronger non-binding resolution by the 15-member body denouncing the Israeli settlements as "illegal." The new language was part of a compromise put forth by Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN.
The earlier resolution was offered by the Palestinian Authority and garnered nearly 120 co-sponsors, all Arab and non-aligned states. UN diplomats told Reuters it would probably be approved by all Security Council members other than the US.
It says that "Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."
The US has unilaterally vetoed or declined to support dozens of UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel during the last several decades. For the US to support even the less harsh language is a remarkable development.
Palestinian leaders reportedly rejected the US offer on the new resolution, seeking instead to push for a vote Friday on the original language designating the Israel settlements "illegal." It raised the prospect that the Obama administration would cast its first Security Council veto.