U.S. seeking Security Council bloc to avoid using veto on Palestinian state
Representatives of the Quartet meeting in New York Sunday trying to reach an agreed formula for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
The United States is trying to rally enough Security Council members to oppose or abstain from the vote on a Palestinian request for admission into the United Nations as a full member, according to a report in the Washington Post last night that was based on diplomatic sources.
This would save the U.S. from having to use its veto power at the 15-member Security Council in order to counter the Palestinian request.
U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice said on Saturday that there was more than one Security Council member, and possibly several, who are skeptical about the Palestinians' application to the Security Council.
The American diplomat warned that if the Palestinians did not climb down from their high perch, the U.S. would not be the only Security Council member to oppose their demands.
The international effort to prevent a confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians at the UN in about a week will move now to the UN headquarters in New York. Representatives of the Quartet - the U.S., Russia, the EU and the UN - will meet Sunday in New York in order to try and reach an agreed formula about a statement which would call for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Even though Israel and the Palestinians did not respond positively to the draft statement, the Obama administration would like to issue the announcement and seek a response from each side.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed his visit to the UN forward and will travel on Tuesday night. On Wednesday he will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama for final coordination ahead of the Palestinian request at the Security Council.
No meeting has been arranged at this time between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the U.S. president, with whom there has not even been a telephone exchange since February.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was scheduled to fly out to Washington last night, a trip meant to include a meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, CIA Director David Petraeus and other senior members of the U.S. defense and intelligence establishment.
Barak called "for additional efforts to find a way to return Israel and the Palestinians to direct negotiations on all core issues."
No comment on settlements
Nabil Sha'ath, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said Saturday that the reason the Palestinians decided to turn to the Security Council and request full membership for Palestine was the American proposal for resuming negotiations with Israel. He said that the proposal was relayed by David Hale and Dennis Ross to the PA president, and did not include any comment on the settlements.
Ross and Hale, and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, proposed on Thursday to Abbas that the Quartet statement that will be issued in the coming days will include a commitment to bring to a completion the negotiations with Israel on the issue of the borders and security within six months.
In return they would like the Palestinians to put off turning to the UN until the completion of the talks.
The envoys told Abbas that in addition to the fixed timetable for completing the negotiations, he would be given international guarantees on the issue of borders.
The formula put forth by the Americans also includes a call for the immediate resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the 1967 borders, with an agreed exchange of territory.
Both the Americans and Blair told Abbas that he could turn to the UN secretary general with a request for Palestine to become a full member of the organization, but to delay the process during the talks with Israel. If the negotiations would lead to naught, the envoys told the Palestinian leader, he could turn to the UN chief once more and ask that the membership process be resumed.
Senior Israeli officials and European diplomats say that the Palestinians rejected the formula of the statement that was offered.
Abbas told the U.S. envoys that during the past two years Netanyahu refused to discuss the issue of borders seriously, and he does not believe this would change.