The UN Security Council is expected to vote today on a resolution brought by the Arab states and the Palestinian Authority declaring the Jewish settlements in the West Bank illegal and an obstacle to a two-state solution. The United States is expected to veto the resolution, its first such action since President Barack Obama took office two years ago.
To avoid having to exercise its veto power, the Obama administration tried to persuade the Palestinians to withdraw the resolution in favor of a non-binding statement from the Security Council presidency condemning settlement activity and additional diplomatic incentives.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior advisers Isaac Molho and Ron Dermer told U.S. officials that Israel does not oppose even a sharply worded statement from the Security Council but made it clear to the American interlocutors that Jerusalem expects the United States to veto the Arab resolution if it is submitted to a vote.
A senior Foreign Ministry source said Washington is leaning very hard on the Palestinian Authority and Arab states to withdraw the resolution. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on the phone this week with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, met on Tuesday with the permanent representatives of Arab states at the world body and made it clear that the United States is keen to find a compromise on the matter in order to avoid a situation having to exercise its veto power.
The incentives package includes more U.S. pressure on Israel to cease settlement construction, a sharply worded condemnation by the Quartet or by Obama against the settlements and support for Russia’s proposal that representatives of Security Council member states visit the West Bank to express support for the PA.
Israeli officials say the Americans also offered the Palestinians a declaration from next month’s Quartet meeting about the conflict emphasizing the principle that a future Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 borders, which the government of Israel rejects.
The Arab states and the Palestinians rejected the U.S. compromise proposals. The Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, announced that the resolution will be brought to a vote of the Security Council tonight. The Palestinians told U.S. officials they will not repeat the mistake they made in connection to the Goldstone Report last year, when they gave in to American pressure and at the last moment deciding not to submit the document for a vote to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
A Foreign Ministry source in Jerusalem, meanwhile, said tonight’s Security Council vote is not a done deal.
“It is not clear whether the Palestinian position is merely tactical, so they can pressure the Americans,” the source said. “It may be that the Palestinians will concede if they get more from the Americans.”
The United States is the only Security Council member that opposes the resolution. While the wording does not conflict with Washington’s stance on the settlements it fears that if the resolution passes it will be an obstacle to the renewal of Israel-PA negotiations.
Being forced to use the veto power of the United States, however, would be an embarrassing for Obama in the international sphere.
Even the proposed compromise is drawing fire from pro-Israel politicians in the United States.
Democrats.“Giving up support of Israel at the Security Council is not an option,” said U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-New York). “The U.S. must veto the resolution and clearly state that we will not support these means to undermine the peace process.”
Her colleague Anthony Weiner said that the compromise offered by the administration has paved the way for more anti-Israel action in the UN.
Republicans were much bolder, and accused Obama of throwing Israel under the bus.
Meanwhile, Abbas spoke to Obama yesterday on the telephone about the resolution submitted to the Security Council.
Abbas said he decided to go to the Security Council after the Quartet failed at its last meeting in Munich to condemn Israeli settlements and recognize the 1967 lines as the borders of the future Palestinian state.
According to a Palestinian spokesman, Abbas has convened a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and of Fatah for today.
“President Abbas, and after a long telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, has called members of the Palestinian leadership to a quick and urgent meeting to discuss the latest developments that were the subject of discussion with President Obama,” he said.