The U.S. cast its first veto in the UN Security Council on Friday [18 February] under the Obama administration, according to the Washington Post’s Colum Lynch.
UN photo of US Ambassador Susan Rice casting veto on 18 February 2011
All of the other 14 members of the UNSC voted in favor of the resolution, which would have condemned Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. At least 120 UN member states co-sponsored the resolution, despite a few last-minute drop-outs…
The draft resolution, if it had passed, would have “demanded that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard”.
The British Ambassador later made a point of saying not only that Israeli settlements are illegal, but also added that the three largest EU members hope to see Palestinian State by September of this year. Britain and France are two of the Security Council’s five permanent members who have the power to veto a resolution, and Germany is now one of the Security Council’s ten non-permanent members who have ordinary voting powers — all three voted in favor of the Palestinian-supported draft resolution that the U.S. vetoed.
The U.S. apparently preferred to say only that Israeli settlements were “illegitimate”.
UPDATE: A post on the Arabist blog here highlights this point:
“It’s rather morbid to read the detailed justification for this. From a State Dept. briefing here:
QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Rice, you say that you reject the continued building of settlements on the West Bank as being illegitimate. Yet you vote that no on a resolution that calls it illegal. Why is that, considering that the State Department, as far back as 1978, considered settlement activities illegal?
AMBASSADOR RICE: The United States has not characterized settlement activity as illegal since, I believe, 1980. And – but what we do believe firmly and have reiterated forcefully, including today, is that continued settlement activity is not legitimate”…