UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council on Tuesday rejected a Palestinian resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the establishment of a Palestinian state by late 2017.
The resolution called for negotiations to be based on territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. It also called for a peace deal within 12 months.
Even if the draft had received the minimum nine votes in favour, it would have been defeated by Washington's vote against it. The United States is one of the five veto-wielding permanent members.
There were eight votes in favour, including France, Russia and China, two against and five abstentions, among them Britain. Australia joined the United States in voting against the measure.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power defended Washington's position against the draft in a speech to the 15-nation council by saying it was not a vote against peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The United States every day searches for new ways to take constructive steps to support the parties in making progress toward achieving a negotiated settlement," she said. "The Security Council resolution put before us today is not one of those constructive steps."
She said the text was "deeply imbalanced" and contained "unconstructive deadlines that take no account of Israel's legitimate security concerns." To make matters worse, Power said, it "was put to a vote without a discussion or due consideration among council members."
She did not spare Israel either. "Today's vote should not be interpreted as a victory for an unsustainable status quo," Power said, adding that Washington would oppose actions by either side that undermined peace efforts, whether "in the form of settlement activity or imbalanced draft resolutions."
Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar, the sole Arab representative on the council, expressed regret that the resolution was voted down, while noting that she thought council members should have had more time to discuss the proposal.
The defeat of the resolution was not surprising. Washington, council diplomats said, had made clear it did not want such a resolution put to a vote before Israel's election in March.
The Palestinians, the diplomats said, insisted on putting the resolution to a vote despite the fact that it was clear Washington would not let it pass. Their sudden announcement last weekend that Ramallah wanted a vote before the new year surprised Western delegations on the council.