Kerry said to warn UN vote on Palestine would strengthen Israeli right

Peres, Livni told US secretary such a move before March elections would benefit Netanyahu, Bennett, according to Foreign Policy

PM Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on December 15, 2014 (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO / Flash90)
PM Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome on December 15, 2014 (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO / Flash90)

US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly told European Union diplomats that a UN vote in favor of the Palestinian resolution asking for recognition and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines would, at this stage, only strengthen Israel’s hardline politicians, like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett.

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

At a recent annual luncheon with the 28 European Union ambassadors, Kerry reportedly said such a move would benefit those who oppose the peace process, and intimated that the US may support a Security Council resolution if the wording were appropriate, but he did not elaborate.

“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 told Foreign Policy.

The diplomat also said that Kerry spoke about a warning issued to him by former justice minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and former president Shimon Peres that a favorable UN vote “imposed by the international community would reinforce Benjamin Netanyahu and the hardliners in Israel.”

Another European diplomat said Kerry’s message was that UN action would “give more impetus to more right-wing parties, that there was a risk this could further embolden the more right-wing forces along the Israeli political spectrum.”

The diplomat said the US has been too “vague” on what steps could be taken at the Security Council after the Israeli elections.

“Secretary Kerry made clear in private as he has in public that we don’t think any steps should be taken that would interfere with the Israeli election — that’s what he conveyed earlier this week,” a senior State Department official told Foreign Policy in response. “He continues to discuss with foreign partners the options for advancing the goal we all share of preventing a downward spiral of events on the ground and creating conditions for resumption of negotiations on a two state solution.”

On Thursday, the US said it would not support the current resolution put forward by the Palestinians setting the terms for statehood and an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

Washington has seen the text of a draft resolution circulating in the UN Security Council and “it is not something that we would support,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“We wouldn’t support any action that would prejudge the outcome of the negotiations and that would set a specific deadline for the withdrawal of forces,” Psaki said.

She did not rule out a statehood-related resolution per se, saying the United States wanted “further consultations.”

Psaki noted that the Palestinians “are not pushing for a vote right now,” and said it was unlikely the measure would face a vote soon.

Jordan presented the measure on Wednesday to the UN Security Council on behalf of the Palestinians, who said they were open to negotiations on the text.

Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel would never accept “unilateral diktats” while his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dismissed the draft as a “Palestinian gimmick.”

Washington has repeatedly vetoed Security Council resolutions seen as undermining its close ally Israel.

The Palestinian draft resolution sets a 12-month deadline for wrapping up negotiations on a final settlement and the end of 2017 as the time frame for completing an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.

A final peace deal would pave the way to the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as a shared capital, according to the text.

“There is no basis for consensus on the text as drafted and that is why we need to do some work,” said a Security Council diplomat.

France, working with Britain and Germany, is pressing on with a separate text on reviving the peace process, but it was unclear when that effort would yield results.

“We are continuing our work on a consensus text. We are working on the European text and we will see if we can make progress,” said a European diplomat.

AFP and JTA contributed to this report.

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