Nearly 3,000 Palestinians rally against U.S. veto on settlement resolution
Mass demonstration in Ramallah backed by members of Abbas' Fatah faction; Palestinian PM decries Obama's defense of the veto as 'offensive', offers concessions to Hamas in apparent show of frustration over U.S. policy.
Nearly 3,000 Palestinians demonstrated Sunday in the West Bank city of Ramallah to protest at the United States veto of a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Palestinian media reported.
Some of the demonstrators chanted "Get Out, Obama!" in the Al Manara main square of the city. Their protests were backed by members of Fatah, the party of the Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.
Central Committee member Mahmoud Al-Alul called the veto an expression "against the Palestinian people and its freedom, and it supports Israeli injustice, oppression and occupation," according to Palestinian news agency Maan.
The U.S. voted Friday against a resolution at the United Nations Security Council which condemned Israeli settlements, describing them as illegal, and called on Israel to stop all building activities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The other 14 Security Council members voted in favor.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Fayyad angrily denounced the U.S. veto earlier Sunday. "The Americans have chosen to be alone in disrupting the internationally backed Palestinian efforts," Fayyad said.
Palestinian officials quoted President Barack Obama as telling them that if he had gone forward with the measure, Israel's supporters in Congress had threatened to withhold financial aid to the Palestinians.
"I found this offensive," Fayyad said. "We are not willing to compromise our national enterprise for a fistful of dollars, however big or small."
The Palestinians receive more than $200 million a year in direct financial assistance from the U.S., making Washington the largest individual donor to Fayyad's government.
Also on Sunday, the Palestinian prime minister appealed to the rival Hamas group to join him in a united government, offering to allow the Islamic militants to retain security control of the Gaza Strip until elections later this year.
Fayyad's proposal to his Islamic militant rivals reflected the Palestinians' deep frustration over Washington's handling of Mideast peace efforts.
Any partnership with the anti-Israel Hamas would likely draw international criticism and all but rule out hopes of reviving negotiations. The U.S., EU and Israel shun Hamas as a terror organization.
But with peace talks stalled for nearly four months and few hopes for getting them back on track, Fayyad's Western-backed government in the West Bank is now turning its focus to internal politics.
The Palestinian areas have been divided between two rival governments since Hamas violently seized control of Gaza nearly four years ago. Reunification is essential for the Palestinians, who hope to establish a state that includes both areas.
Fayyad told The Associated Press in an interview that the split has gone on too long. "We need to move to end the split," he said during a tour of the northern West Bank, where he inaugurated new schools and roads and condemned Israel's destruction of Palestinian homes it says are illegally built.
President Mahmoud Abbas announced earlier this month that he would hold long overdue parliamentary and presidential elections in September.
The move appeared to be motivated by pro-democracy protests erupting throughout the Middle East as well as the leak of secret negotiating documents to the Al-Jazeera TV station. Those documents showed that Abbas had offered generous concessions to Israel during past rounds of peace talks. The disclosures embarrassed Palestinian leaders.
Hamas has said it would boycott the elections unless there is reconciliation first. Abbas has since taken the view that elections could not be held without Gaza.
Fayyad, a U.S.-educated economist who enjoys international respect, refused to say whether elections would be canceled. Instead, he said his focus is to work with Hamas to make the elections take place.
Fayyad acknowledged that many details need to be worked out, but he said that as long as Hamas continues to respect a cease-fire with Israel, all other areas of disagreement could be bridged.