The U.N. Security Council has taken no action on a proposed statement that would have criticized Israeli military strikes in the Palestinian territories. The United States blocked the text, calling it "unbalanced" and "unfair".
The statement drafted by Arab nations would have expressed grave concern about the recent escalation of Israeli military operations, especially in the occupied territories. It called on Israel to refrain from excessive use of force that endangers the Palestinian civilian population.
But after three days of closed-door negotiations, ambassadors emerged late Thursday to say they had been unable to reach the necessary consensus. Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States had rejected the text because, in his words, "it distorts the reality of the region".
"There were extensive negotiations over three days. A lot of changes were made. But the balance of the text as it ended up was still not adequate in our view and we weren't prepared to support it. We think it was disproportionately critical of Israel and unfairly so, and needlessly so," he said.
After the negotiations broke down, the Palestinian U.N. representative Riyad Mansour blasted the U.S. opposition. He suggested that Washington had been alone among the 15 member council in blocking the non-binding statement.
"Fourteen members of Security Council demonstrated understanding, but unfortunately one member who is shielding and protecting Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza and in other parts of the occupied territory, it is unfortunate that that position is hostile to the Palestinian people," he said.
Several U.S. and European diplomats disputed the Palestinian representative's account. They pointed out that there had been no vote, and that many Council members had expressed willingness to support either the Arab-backed text or proposed U.S. amendments.
But in the end, there was deadlock. Ambassador Bolton said he was not bothered by whether the United States was characterized as the "lone holdout". "I don't want to get into characterizing it, but if I were the only holdout, I'd be proud of that fact," he said.
After the talks collapsed, Arab nations requested an open Security Council meeting on the Middle East where any of the 191 U.N. member states could express their views. It was scheduled for Monday, and Palestinian ambassador Mansour said he expects more than 150 countries to speak.
Ambassador Bolton said he does not think the meeting will be productive, and described it as a "group therapy session". That prompted a sharp retort from the Palestinian representative.
"We don't believe the Security Council open session are sessions of group therapy, they are sessions to uphold international law, and we will see as of Monday representatives who will speak on behalf of maybe more than 150 countries express their outrage at the Israeli aggression and attacks," he said.
In a letter to the Council earlier in the week, Mansour had said at least 18 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military attacks since last Friday.
The United States had argued that any Council statement should mention the obligations of both Israelis and Palestinians under the U.N.-backed Road Map for peace, and should balance criticisms of Israeli actions with a mention of Palestinian attacks on Israel.