UNITED NATIONS – The United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council draft resolution Saturday that sought to condemn an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip and demand Israeli troops pull out of the territory.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the Arab-backed draft resolution was “biased against Israel and politically motivated.”
“This resolution does not display an evenhanded characterization of the recent events in Gaza, nor does it advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace to which we aspire and for which we are working assiduously,” he told the Security Council.
It was the second U.S. veto this year of a Security Council draft resolution concerning Israeli military operations in Gaza. The U.S. blocked action on a document this summer after Israel launched its offensive in response to the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked Palestinian militants.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the draft resolution would have aggravated the situation in Gaza because it contained “inflammatory and unnecessary language.”
“We do not believe the resolution was designed to contribute to the cause of peace,” she said in a statement.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev agreed the draft was one-sided. “It’s good that it wasn’t accepted by the Security Council,” he said.
The Palestinians’ Hamas-led government, however, was furious at the U.S. veto.
“This decision by the U.S. government gives unlimited cover to commit more massacres of innocent Palestinians,” spokesman Ghazi Hamad said. “This is a shame on the American administration, which says it is trying to promote human rights and democracy in the Middle East.”
More criticism came in from elsewhere in the Middle East. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the veto “will only increase the anger” toward Israel, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit accused the Security Council of “turning a blind eye to Israeli acts in Gaza.”
The Arab League was planning to hold an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo, Egypt, today to decide how to respond the latest Israeli offensive.
Qatar’s Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser also said the failure of the Security Council to act on the draft will lead to continued Israeli violence against Palestinians.
“Any lukewarm reaction or response on our part gives the impression we are shirking from our humanitarian responsibilities,” said Al-Nasser, who sponsored the resolution on behalf of the Palestinians. Qatar is the only Arab nation on the council.
Palestinians strengthened calls for Security Council action after an early morning Israeli artillery barrage in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun killed 19 people Wednesday.