Arab states and the Palestinian Authority are drafting a statement they plan to submit to the U.N. Security Council in the form of a resolution denouncing Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and calling for international pressure on Israel to halt construction.
Israeli officials fear that Washington will not rush to exercise its veto power against such a resolution.
According to a senior figure in the Foreign Ministry, representatives of the Arab bloc in the United Nations convened in New York on Thursday and Friday to start framing the resolution. The meetings are expected to continue and could produce a draft that will be distributed to Security Council members by the end of this week.
Some analysts believe the resolution will contain not only denunciations of Israel but also calls for international sanctions against the Jewish settlements, in the form of a boycott of businesses based there. Officials in Jerusalem are concerned that even if the resolution does not go that far, it could nonetheless encourage Western states to impose their own sanctions against the settlements.
Talk of the resolution is clearly causing anxiety in the Foreign Ministry and in the Prime Minister's Office. Eviatar Manor, the director general for International Organizations and the United Nations at the Foreign Ministry, and his staff were instructed not to provide any information on the issue to the media.
After repeated requests from Haaretz, an anonymous Foreign Ministry source agreed to say the following :"Israel views this matter with great concern. This measure joins other attempts by the Palestinians to circumvent the negotiations." The official added that Israeli embassies in Security Council member states are taking action to head off the resolution.
Senior Palestinian officials confirmed their intention to introduce to the Security Council a resolution which would deem Jewish construction beyond the Green Line illegal and define these areas as occupied lands.
The officials said it would be difficult or even impossible for the United States to veto such a resolution, since it conforms to the positions of the Obama administration. A veto, they said, would make it look as if Washington were dancing to the tune of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Obama administration, the officials told Haaretz, had given the Palestinians a sense that it supported an absolute suspension of construction in the settlements and a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, but that now, it is avoiding these issues.
"The Palestinian issue, which until recently was at the top of the administration's agenda in the Middle East has now become unimportant to them," one Palestinian official said. The officials said that last week's meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell was difficult and that the PA president was disappointed by the results.
Mitchell presented to the Palestinians a "non-paper," an unofficial document, related to the talks with Israel that shocked the Palestinians.
The Palestinians said that the positions in the non-paper constituted a step back and that even the previous administration of President George W. Bush had presented a more pro-Palestinian position. They were particularly incensed by a clause stating that the negotiations were to be over the borders of the Palestinian state with Jordan, Egypt and Israel - excluding the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley and the no-man's-lands from 1948, which they say the Bush administration had agreed to.
According to a knowledgeable Israeli source, meanwhile, Mitchell and his entourage were very disappointed by their meeting with Netanyahu.
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