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UN Security Council Set for Vote on West Bank Barrier Resolution

The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on a draft resolution condemning Israel's construction of a security barrier that runs through the West Bank. The United States is threatening to veto the measure.

It was another day of heated debate at the Security Council. For six hours, speaker after speaker took turns denouncing the Israeli barrier, which critics call a wall and proponents call a security fence.

Israeli ambassador Dan Gillerman, defending against a barrage of hostile rhetoric, described the barrier as necessary to protect against three years of suicide bombings. He charged that the Syrian-sponsored resolution condemns the victims rather than the terrorists. "The Palestinians who oppose the building of the security fence simply want to kill more Israelis. The Israelis who are building the security fence simply want to live," he said.

Palestinian ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa called the fence an illegal attempt to grab Palestinian land. He said failure of the resolution will push the Middle East to a more radical solution, and perpetual conflict. "This is an issue that will have a deep impact on the future of the region, the future of the vision of the two-state solution. The continuation of the occupying power to build that expansionist wall will virtually mean the demise of that vision, because it will bring to an end the existence of the independent sovereign state of Palestine," he said.

But U.S. ambassador John Negroponte rejected those arguments, calling the resolution biased. "Any resolution concerning the Middle East must take into account the larger picture, that of the current security situation, including the devastating suicide attacks that Israelis have had to endure over the past three years," he said.

Ambassador Negroponte said that to win U.S. support, any resolution would have to denounce and name by name the main groups that have taken responsibility for the suicide bombings. The United States has in the past used its veto power to kill other anti-Israeli resolutions.

The first section of the barrier has been constructed, some of it as much as eight meters high. It is already nearly 150 kilometers long, and is could be more than three times that length when complete.