Kerry said to hint at sanctions if Palestinians push UN bid

Abbas phones US secretary of state to inform him Ramallah submitting amended resolution Monday despite pressure to delay

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on November 13, 2014. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm/Pool)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on November 13, 2014. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm/Pool)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday the PA would submit an amended statehood proposal to the UN Security Council Monday, reportedly drawing threatening hints from Washington.

Earlier, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said a draft resolution would be submitted to the Security Council by Jordan on Monday. A vote could be set for Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest.

Abbas called Kerry Sunday night to inform him of the Palestinian plans to submit the bid, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines by the end of 2017, the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

An unnamed official said Kerry objected to the move during their phone conversation, and urged Abbas to delay the bid until after Israeli elections in March, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Abbas informed Kerry of the PA decision to press for a UN Security Council vote this week on the resolution, which would call for the recognition of a Palestinian state. He also voiced his opposition to settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Kerry, in return, told Abbas to again consider a postponement, and hinted that the US would veto the proposal if need be and possibly impose economic sanctions on the Palestinians, an unnamed Palestinian official said.

The resolution to be submitted Monday had eight new amendments added to it after Jordan submitted an initial bid to the Security Council on December 18, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Al-Arabiya news channel Friday.

Erekat wouldn’t specify the exact changes made to the document, mentioning only the insertion of a clause defining East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and a demand to release Palestinian prisoners according to a fixed timetable.

Washington has been unsuccessfully pressuring Ramallah to delay its bid, Palestinian officials said.

Foreign Policy reported on December 19 that at a recent annual luncheon with 28 European Union ambassadors, Kerry said that a UN vote before Israeli elections would only benefit those who oppose the peace process, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.

Kerry also intimated during the gathering that the US may support a Security Council resolution if the wording were appropriate, but he did not elaborate.

Kerry said the US would not allow the resolution to come to a vote before the Israeli elections, set for March 17, according to the report.

“Kerry has been very, very clear that for the United States it was not an option to discuss whatever text before the end of the Israeli election,” a European diplomat was quoted as saying.

Last week, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the Palestinians would not push off the vote, despite a request to do so by Kerry.

“We were completely at odds with Kerry on this matter,” al-Maliki said. “Kerry believes the Security Council vote will negatively impact the Israeli elections and the identity of the winner of these elections. We said, however, that the bid now will have a positive effect.”

Erekat denied last Monday that Kerry had mentioned elections as a factor in postponing the bid. Rather, the US secretary of state pressed for more time in order to come up with an alternative peace plan, he said.

“I heard from Secretary Kerry that they need time to work a formula, they are against the UN Security Council, they [are] preparing for a plan to have the two-state solution. We need to prep them, we need to counsel them. But I didn’t hear anything from Secretary Kerry saying that we won’t pass it until after Israeli elections,” he said.

The resolution with the timetable is almost certain to be rejected by the Security Council — either by a failure to get the minimum nine “yes” votes required or by a veto from the United States, Israel’s closest ally which insists there must be a negotiated solution to the conflict.

Jordan’s UN Ambassador, the Arab representative on the Security Council, has said repeatedly that Jordan wants a consensus resolution agreed to by all 15 council members.

Elhanan Miller and AP contributed to this report.

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