U.S. vetoes UN resolution demanding end to Gaza offensive

Shlomo Shamir

Haaretz

Tishrei 21, 5765

NEW YORK - The United States on Tuesday vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution demanding that Israel stop a major offensive in the Gaza Strip that has cost at least 80 Palestinian lives.

A total of 11 nations voted in favor. Britain, Germany and Romania abstained on the measure drafted by Arab nations.

Arab nations demanded in a draft UN Security Council resolution Monday that Israel immediately halt its incursion into northern Gaza.

The draft resolution, submitted to the council in an emergency meeting convened at the request of Arab nations on Monday, calls for an immediate halt to the offensive and calls on Israel and the Palestinians to immediately implement the internationally-backed road map peace plan.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman expressed his happiness after the vote and said that the resolution only condemned the victim and not the attacker.

Gillerman added that the nations which abstained showed courage while those that voted in favor were cowards.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Danforth cast the U.S. veto after British and German efforts to find compromise language failed.

"Once again, the resolution is lopsided and unbalanced," Danforth told the council just before voting "no."

"It is dangerously disingenuous because of its many material omissions. Because of this lack of balance, because of these omissions the resolution lacks credibility and deserves a 'no' vote," he said.

After the vote, Algeria's UN Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the only Arab member of the council, thanked the resolution's supporters and noted that the measure got more than the minimum nine "yes" votes needed for adoption absent a veto by one of the five permanent council members.

"It is a sad day for the Palestinians and it is a sad day for justice," Baali said.

The U.S. had earlier on Tuesday rejected a Russian-sponsored compromise to balance a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel for its operation in the Gaza Strip with a condemnation of Hamas for firing Qassam rockets at the western Negev town of Sderot.

Danforth had said Monday that if the resolution was passed "it would be a very terrible statement for the Security Council to make" because he said it acquiesces in terror against Israelis.

Shalom holding talks with European counterparts
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on Tuesday held a series of talks with his European counterparts in an effort to prevent a unilateral condemnation of Israel.

Shalom met with foreign ministers from the Netherlands, Russia and Great Britain. He asked them to oppose any resolution that does not also condemn Qassam rocket attacks on Israel.

The European ministers said they condemn the attacks on Israel, but expect Israel to respond to them in a manner proportional to the Qassam threat.

Baali, the only Arab member of the council, requested the open meeting following the nearly weeklong Israeli offensive - the largest of its kind launched by Israel in four years in Gaza.

"Taking into account the gravity, the urgency of the situation, the seriousness of the situation, we need to have the Security Council take a decision quickly - and quickly means Tuesday at the latest," Baali said.

Gillerman, referring to the Security Council debate, said Monday that, "In the past, as well, the Americans have not allowed one-sided resolutions to pass. They understand that our activity is a response to Qassams, they understand that Israel has the right to self-defense."

The United States hopes Israel will quickly end its massive offensive in Gaza without expanding the operation, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Monday.

"I hope it does not expand and I hope whatever he does is proportionate to the threat that Israel is facing and I hope that this operation can come to a conclusion quickly," Powell told reporters aboard his plane as he flew to Brazil.

Powell said he could not judge if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had overreacted and predicted the Israeli leader would end the offensive only when he perceived he had dealt with the threat from Palestinian rockets

Sharon's offensive "is not in contrast to the disengagement plan. He remains as committed to the disengagement plan and hopefully that will get on track," Powell said.