Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territory was “illegitimate” shortly before the United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning settlement expansion.
In an interview with ABC’s This Week, the top diplomat argued “it’s been American policy for many years that settlements were illegitimate.”
Most recently, in December of last year, Clinton told the Brookings Institution in Washington DC she did not accept the legitimacy of further settlement construction:
We believe their continued expansion is corrosive not only to peace efforts and the two-state solution, but to Israel’s future itself.
This weekend, Clinton reiterated President Barack Obama’s commitment to “keep working toward a two-state solution.”
In September, Obama saw a window of opportunity for peace, but negotiations collapsed after mere months despite a self-imposed Israeli moratorium on settlement construction. The Palestinians have threatened to unilaterally seek recognition of sovereignty at the United Nations as a last resort.
Some 300,000 Israelis currently live in settlements on the West Bank, which is home to approximately 2.5 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem which the Palestinians claim as their capital.
Israel suspended settlement construction for eight months in 2010. When the moratorium expired, the United States attempted to convince the Israeli government to extend it in exchange for increased military support. Pressured by nationalist hardliners in his own cabinet, however, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not accept the proposal, prompting the Palestinians to walk out on the latest peace talks.
A UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion failed as a result of the United States’ veto. All other fourteen members of the Security Council, including nonpermanent members Brazil, Germany and India, voted in favor.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice agreed that settlement construction “violates international commitments and threatens prospects for peace,” but she argued that the resolution risked harming the peace process.
The Palestinian Authority has said it will turn to the United Nations General Assembly for a similar action. The United States failed to persuade President Mahmoud Abbas to withdraw his resolution ahead of the vote this weekend. He described the American veto as “immoral behavior and a disregard of the international community.”
Hamas, the Islamic terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip, said in a statement that the veto proved America’s bias toward the Israeli “occupation.”