(CNSNews.com) - The United States has vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's construction of a security barrier intended to keep suicide bombers from entering Israeli territory. The resolution, drafted by the Palestinians, was introduced by Syria.
The Palestinians and their Arab allies wanted the Security Council to declare construction of the wall/barrier a violation of international law, and they wanted construction to stop immediately. The draft resolution also condemned Israel's plans to build hundreds of new homes in Israeli settlements.
The U.S. veto late Tuesday night was enough to kill the resolution, but the Palestinians are not giving up. Press reports say Arab states will now take the draft resolution to the U.N. General Assembly, where the U.S. does not have veto power.
However, resolutions passed by the General Assembly merely reflect the consensus of the world. They lack the force of international law.
Britain and Germany were among the four Security Council nations that abstained from voting on the draft resolution condemning Israel. Mexico, Russia and Spain were among the ten nations voting for it.
Before the vote, representatives of more than 40 nations expressed their opinions on Israel's construction of a security barrier.
The United States said any resolution condemning the Israeli fence should also denounce by name all of the groups that are waging a terror war against Israeli citizens.
Syria introduced the draft resolution one week after the Israeli Cabinet approved an extension of the security barrier that will surround Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The draft also condemned an Israeli air raid against a suspected terrorist training base located in Syria.
Israel bombed the training camp after terrorists bombed a restaurant in Haifa.
After the debate and into an evening session, the United States suggested that Security Council members pass an alternative resolution calling on all parties in the Middle East to dismantle terrorist groups.
That draft was shot down by other nations, including Syria, which then pressed for a vote on the resolution to condemn Israel for its actions, knowing full well that a U.S. veto loomed.
With the exception of Israel, every nation denounced the security barrier being built by Israel, including the United States.
"Israel had the right to defend itself against those insidious attacks," said US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte. But, he added, "The wall was not really consistent with the United States view of what the Middle East one day had to look at."
During his speech, Negroponte reiterated the Bush administration's stance that terror groups must be disarmed and the terror infrastructure must be dismantled.
In his opening remarks, Nasser al-Kidwa, the Palestinian Observer to the United Nations, blamed Israel for the tensions in the Middle East, and said Israel's claim that the wall was a security measure to prevent suicide bombings was "incredulous and illogical." The Palestinians say the fence is intended to colonize Palestinian land.
"Israel is committing an immense war crime against the Palestinian people in the magnitude of a crime against humanity. It is the biggest war crime of its kind in our contemporary history," said al-Kidwa.
The Israeli representative, who spoke after al-Kidwa, made clear the barrier is a defensive measure, and he wondered why the goal of the gathering was not to prevent terrorism rather than attempt to stop Israel from preventing terror.
"Many Palestinians who oppose the fence simply want to continue killing Israelis. In a pattern that is as familiar as it is distasteful, we have gathered for yet another meeting of this council, called to censure Israel for its measures to prevent terrorism rather than address the terrorism itself," said Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN.
Gillerman later praised the US veto of a resolution that "failed to draw attention to Palestinian terrorism."
In his opening remarks, Syrian representative Faissal Mekdad called Israel's statements to the UN body lies.
"Israel's objective in building the wall was not to protect security," said Mekdad. "Israel is indeed perpetrating war crimes and terrorism against Palestinian civilians, men, women and children."
Other nations compared Israel's security barrier to the Berlin Wall, while others blamed Israel for the violence the wall is meant to stop.
Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico stated the wall "heightened the climate of confrontation."
"The intention (of building the wall) was not to prevent terrorism but to prevent a settlement in the Middle East based on land for peace," proclaimed Munir Akram, the representative from Pakistan.
"This is a visible and clear act of territorial annexation under the guise of security," said Iranian representative Mohammad Hassan Fadiafard.
Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, the representative from Cuba, called the wall, "a clear violation of international law."
Some nations saw both sides of the argument and specifically stated that terror organizations in Gaza and the West Bank must take blame.
"The attack in Haifa....it highlighted the need for both sides to find a resolution to the conflict," said Don Mackey, the representative from New Zealand.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Marcello Spatafora of Italy said Israel as a nation has the right of self-defense. "The (European) Union strongly condemned terrorist attacks against Israel, and urged the Palestinian Authority to take immediate, decisive steps against those carrying them out."
Upon receiving the news of the US veto, al-Kidwa said the Palestinians would ask for an emergency session of the UN General Assembly to introduce a similar resolution.
Just last month, the Palestinians went before the Security Council to demand Israel refrain from its threat to expel or assassinate Yasser Arafat.
The U.S. also vetoed that measure, since it did not include condemnations of terrorist groups. However, the General Assembly voted 133-4 in support of the measure - reflecting its consensus against Israel.