American veto at UN infuriates Arab world

MIDDLE EAST TURMOIL: Clinton orders ambassador to block Security Council move condemning Israelis' land-grab in east Jerusalem


Diplomatic Editor

There was outrage across the Arab world yesterday after the United States exercised its veto for the first time in five years to block a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel's decision to confiscate Arab land in Jerusalem.

Governments, newspapers and diplomats said the move would damage the Middle East peace talks, reduce the authority of the US as a mediator and diminish the stature of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

Moderate Palestinian negotiators urged Israel to open talks on the final status of Jerusalem. The future of the city is perhaps the single most sensitive issue in the Middle East. Negotiations over it are not due to start until next year.

Britain and its European partners supported the draft UN resolution, which called on Israel to give up a plan to expropriate 131 acres of land in east Jerusalem to build Jewish housing and a police station. Britain viewed the move as illegal and a breach of Israel's agreements with the Palestinians.

But the US Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, said the veto was cast because her government believed Jerusalem should be settled only between Israel and the Arabs.

In European foreign ministries the veto was seen as proof that the Clinton administration had adopted an uncritical approach as the price for keeping the Israeli Labour party in power, preserving the peace talks and winning Jewish votes in the US elections. A European Commission official said the veto was outrageous and would damage prospects for a trade pact with Israel.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, said he was satisfied by the veto and the Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, described the affair as "a lot of noise about a little story". Israel and the US may have calculated that the veto would help Mr Rabin fend off right-wing criticism without long-term damage to the Arab participants in the peace talks.

They appear to have reckoned without the emotion aroused in the Arab world by issues affecting Jerusalem's status. The city is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Captured in 1967, it is claimed by Israel as its indivisible capital but sought by Palestinians as the future capital of their own state. The veto fell on a date designated each year as Jerusalem Day by the Islamic Conference Organisation.

Mr Arafat's spokesman said "the United States has lost credibility and confidence in the eyes of the Palestinian people". The fundamentalist Hamas movement, opposed to the peace talks, said the US backed "a Zionist conspiracy to take over Jerusalem entirely". Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel last year, reversed its position and allowed opposition parties to stage an anti-Israel "popular congress".

The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa, said the veto was senseless, while Saudi Arabian newspapers urged Arabs and Muslims to "take up arms". Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the key US allies in the region.

Perhaps the most significant effect of the US veto will be felt in Damascus. It came just after the Foreign Minister, Farouq Al-Sharaa, had met President Bill Clinton and the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, for discussions on how to break the deadlock in talks between Israel and Syria.

The Syrian ruling-party newspaper said peace could never come "while American policy endorses the logic of Israel". That was seen as a sign that President Hafez al-Assad places little faith in American promises of good faith, so crucial to the tortuous negotiations over the Syrian Golan Heights. The Syrians insist on what they call "balanced and equal security measures" on the two sides of the 1967 Golan border.

But Israel says this is unacceptable, because reciprocal withdrawal of troops would thin out its defences deep into Galilee. Both sides privately accept the conflict can only be resolved by US-guaranteed security arrangements, perhaps involving deployment of American troops.

Even these proposals are arousing fury on the Israeli right. The opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, said this week that Mr Rabin was selling out Israeli interests and warned President Assad not to negotiate with "a government that does not have a mandate to give up the Golan or the Galilee" Such rhetoric, ahead of Israeli elections next year, explains the US desire to placate Mr Rabin and to keep Israel engaged in the peace talks.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas