POSTED: Friday, February 18, 2011 - 4:28pm
UPDATED: Monday, February 21, 2011 - 2:57pm
UNITED NATIONS – Despite stiff American opposition, the Palestinian leadership announced Friday it was pressing forward with a U.N. resolution that would condemn Israel's settlements as illegal.
The PLO executive committee met early Friday in the West Bank city of Ramallah and decided unanimously to push forward with the vote in the U.N. Security Council.
The council met shortly after at 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT), but the U.N. announced that the 15-member body would hold closed consultations first.
The United States opposes new Jewish settlements, which it calls "illegitimate" and an impediment to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
But the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama doesn't want the issue taken up by the U.N.'s most powerful body, arguing it will only complicate efforts to resume stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at a final peace settlement and creation of a Palestinian state.
The Palestinians have said repeatedly that they will not resume peace talks until Israel halts settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed just weeks after they restarted in September because Israel ended a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction.
The call for a U.N. vote puts Obama in a difficult position, both internationally and domestically.
A U.S. veto of the resolution — which has about 130 co-sponsors — would anger Arab nations and much of the rest of the world at a time of growing street protests in the Mideast, fueled by hopes for democracy, which the Obama administration supports.
An abstention would anger the Israelis, the closest U.S. ally in the region, as well as Democratic and Republican supporters of Israel in the U.S. Congress.
Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke by telephone for 50 minutes on Thursday, according to Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Aburdeneh. They discussed the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and the resolution on settlements, he said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Thursday that Obama was looking for a compromise to avert an American veto of the resolution.
But a spokesman for Abbas said he spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday and informed her that there has been no change in the Palestinian position.
The draft resolution reaffirms "that the 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."
It reiterates previous council demands "that Israel, the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities..."
Clinton said Thursday that the Security Council vote would be counterproductive.
On Wednesday, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, proposed a weaker Security Council presidential statement instead of a legally binding resolution and several other measures but the Palestinians rejected the offer. A revised presidential statement offered by the U.S. was also rejected by the Palestinians.
It would have reaffirmed that the Security Council "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process." It also would have had the council condemn "all forms of violence, including rocket fire from Gaza" and stress the need for "calm and security" for Israelis and Palestinians.
Several countries took themselves off the list of co-sponsors in the latest draft including Syria, which didn't think the resolution was strong enough, and Libya which wants a single state for Israelis and Palestinians.