US exerts 'very strong pressure,' economic threats

Diplomats say Abbas, lacking votes, pulls request for UN vote against Trump plan

Palestinian officials deny recalling Security Council resolution, saying move is temporarily delayed for consultations after watered down draft fails to meet their basic demands

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

The Palestinians have abandoned their request for a vote at the UN Security Council Tuesday that they hoped would reject the peace plan of US President Donald Trump, whose administration has put heavy pressure on critics, diplomats said.

Introduced by Indonesia and Tunisia, the resolution was withdrawn because it risked not having nine out of 15 votes in its favor, the minimum required for adoption provided there is no veto by a permanent member, the diplomats told AFP.

A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the United States has placed “very strong pressure” on other countries on the Security Council, including threats of economic retribution.

Despite the setback, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will go ahead Tuesday and address the Security Council about Trump’s January 28 plan, which paves the way for Israeli annexation of much of the Jordan Valley and settlements but also allows for a demilitarized Palestinian state.

The Palestinians sought to portray the move as a temporary  delay and a technicality.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat denied reports that the draft resolution was pulled because of a lack of support, saying in a statement that the “rumor” the Palestinians withdrew the resolution is “not true and totally baseless.”

He said the draft resolution, which initially said the US plan undermined the Palestinian peoples’ aspirations for independence, is still being discussed and will be put to a vote once those discussions conclude with “a formula that represents our positions.”

The original draft resolution, co-sponsored by Tunisia and Indonesia and backed by the Palestinians, also said the US plan violates international law and Security Council demands for a two-state solution based on borders before the 1967 Mideast war. It would have expressed the council’s determination “to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions, including enforcement measures under Chapter 7 of the (U.N.) Charter,” which can be by military or non-military means.

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat speaks at the J Street National Conference, in Washington, October 28, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The resolution had been expected to be put to a vote on Tuesday when Abbas addressed the council. But diplomats said many of its provisions were not acceptable to European members of the council, who support a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders, and other council members.

After lengthy negotiations and revised drafts through the weekend, and the circulation of a drastically amended text by the United States, the Palestinians decided against putting any draft in “blue” — a final form for a vote, diplomats told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

Erekat said since the resolution hasn’t been put in “blue,” it cannot be said that it was pulled.

Senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh tweeted, “Rumors about the draft resolution intended to be presented to the Security Council are part of a fierce war being waged against the Palestinian leadership. We affirm that the consultations are still continuing despite the American war and its pressure on the whole world not to pass the draft resolution.”

US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump’s Middle East peace plan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2020. MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Numerous Israeli and Palestinian media outlets, citing sources close to Palestinian Authority leadership, reported that the vote would not go forward Tuesday, whether due to intense diplomatic pressure, a lack of support, or Palestinian rejection of a watered down version of the resolution.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency, citing a well-informed source, said: “We are not backing away from putting forward a resolution, but when we arrived in New York City, it became clear to us that we still need to consult with member states that have not decided their position yet.”

Israeli officials told The Times of Israel the vote was currently postponed, not canceled, and could be back on the agenda at any time.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: “The Israeli position line has always been very clear: The only way to promote peace is through negotiations, not condemnations at the UN. I thank the countries that helped put a stop to Abbas’s unnecessary actions.”

Earlier Monday, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani told The Times of Israel that the latest draft resolution was “unacceptable.”

A Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called the latest draft “watered-down” and “weak,” as well as lacking “the necessary language to deter Israel from taking illegal unilateral measures aimed at destroying the two-state solution.”

Abbas was also still scheduled to hold a news conference in New York Tuesday with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert at 5 p.m. (Israel time).

The news Palestinians could be pulling the resolution came a day after reports emerged that they were trying to soften the text to garner more support at the Security Council.

The reworked resolution seen by AFP had dropped its initial strong condemnation of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, couching its criticism in milder language than in the original.

Then-Israeli PM Ehud Olmert meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Jerusalem, on November 17, 2008. (Moshe Milner GPO/ Flash90)

The changes came as diplomatic pressure mounted ahead of  the expected vote.

In one sign of the pressure, Tunisia last week abruptly fired its ambassador to the United Nations, Moncef Baati, citing his failure to consult with his foreign ministry on matters said to include the peace plan.

Diplomatic sources said Tunisia’s President Kais Saied was worried that Baati’s expressions of support for the Palestinians would damage Tunisia’s relations with the United States.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, briefed the Security Council on the US plan on Thursday.

The plan would put the Palestinian capital in a suburb of Jerusalem, rather than in East Jerusalem, and allow Israel to annex more than 130 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as well as the Jordan Valley.

It has been roundly rejected by the Palestinians, the Arab League, and the Islamic Cooperation Organization. On Sunday, the African Union followed suit, with its chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, telling a summit of African leaders in Addis Ababa that it “trampled on the rights of the Palestinian people.”

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner speaks during a television interview on the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, January 29, 2020. (SAUL LOEB/AFP)

The initial draft of the Palestinian resolution, which was presented by Tunisia and Indonesia last Tuesday, charged that the US plan “breaches international law and the internationally-endorsed terms of reference for the achievement of a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The later version said the US initiative “departs from the internationally-endorsed terms of reference and parameters for the achievement of a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to this conflict, as enshrined in the relevant United Nations resolutions.”

The draft no longer called for an international conference on the Middle East “at the earliest possible date,” instead, replacing that language with a reminder that such a call was made in a 2008 UN resolution.

It also added a line “condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction.”

It still condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and reaffirms the need to preserve the boundary lines from 1967.

Adam Rasgon and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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