UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The United States cast a veto Friday to kill a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring Israel's West Bank settlement construction illegal.
The other 14 members of the council voted to adopt the resolution and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said after the vote the veto should not be taken as an endorsement of the settlements, which the Obama administration has consistently criticized. Rice said Washington opposes either side in the conflict taking its case to the United Nations when negotiations stall, The New York Times reported.
"Will it move the parties closer to negotiations and an agreement?" Rice asked. "Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the position of both sides."
"Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians still are, as they have always been, the only way to solve the conflict between the two sides," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the U.S. veto would further complicate the issue and "encourage Israel to continue with its settlement activity and to run away from its obligations," the Times reported.
President Barack Obama called Abbas Thursday in an effort to delay the vote or find a compromise.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday the United States did not "accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity," which he called "corrosive not only to peace efforts and a two-state solution, which we strongly support, but to Israel's future itself."
The Obama administration has not said the settlement building was illegal, which the Security Council resolution would have done.
U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., issued a statement saying Washington should not be "bullied" into abandoning its ally, Israel. Ros-Lehtinen said criticizing Israel at the United Nations "isn't leadership, it's unacceptable."