The U.S. administration on Wednesday torpedoed a United Nations Security Council condemnation against Israel over recently approved plans to build hundreds of new housing units in contested areas of Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported.
The Palestinians, who said Tuesday that all of the Security Council members, except the United States, would condemn Israel's recent construction announcements, sought to convince the Security Council to issue a presidential statement against Israel's actions. A presidential statement is often issued when the Security Council cannot reach a consensus, or when a resolution cannot be passed due to a permanent member's veto, or threat thereof.
The Palestinian initiative was blocked by Washington, after State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday that the U.S. would not support a proposal for a Security Council resolution.
"I don't think we think that is a helpful step at this point," Nuland said.
The U.S. expressed "deep disappointment," however, with Israel's intention to press ahead with a plan to build 6,000 homes for settlers on land claimed by the Palestinians, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will damage already faint hopes for a peace agreement.
"We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action. These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace," Nuland told reporters.
"Israel's leaders continually say they support a path toward a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk. So, we again call on Israel and the Palestinians to cease any kinds of counterproductive, unilateral action and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations," Nuland added.
Israel says the future Palestine's border should be set in direct negotiations, from which Abbas withdrew two years ago in protest against the settlements.
Nuland repeated the long-standing U.S. position that direct negotiations are the only way to achieve an enduring two-state solution to the conflict.
Meanwhile, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said Tuesday that the 14 other council members would tell reporters after the council's monthly Middle East meeting on Wednesday that continuing settlement activity is illegal and must be stopped.
He said there was near global unanimity against Israel's actions, pointing to the 169-6 vote in the General Assembly Tuesday on a non-binding resolution condemning settlement activities by Israel and demanding their immediate cessation.
"Unfortunately, one powerful country with veto power does not want the Security Council to act accordingly," Mansour said. "Therefore, the 14 other countries in the Security Council, in their own creative way, will make their position clear, collectively or separately, to the media outside the chamber on Wednesday."
He said the four West European council members — Germany, France, Britain and Portugal — would issue a statement of condemnation, followed by India speaking on behalf of the Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries, and other council members likely including South Africa, Russia and China.
"Therefore one can say 14 versus 1 is the reality of the Security Council in condemning Israel settlement activity — although the one is also condemning," Mansour said.
In Israel, meanwhile, the Housing Ministry is poised to issue tenders in the coming days for the construction of thousands of new housing units in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria. Among the designated areas for new construction are the settlements of Givat Ze'ev, Efrat and Karnei Shomron.
But the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee decided on Tuesday to reject a plan for 800 new homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, located beyond the Green Line. Following a heated debate, however, the committee members approved the construction of 700 new homes in the Beit Safafa neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, designated for use by the city's Arab population.
Jerusalem Council member Meir Turjeman, who also serves on the Planning and Building Committee, said Tuesday that, "it is a shame and a disgrace that no one is looking out for our young [Jewish] couples in Jerusalem."
The planning committee was set to reconvene on Wednesday to discuss plans to build 900 homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at an event in Acre on Tuesday that, "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, and we will continue to build there."