French-Palestinian UN bid said to drop Jewish state reference

Amid lack of clarity over text being submitted Wednesday, US not saying whether it will use its veto; State Department denies US always vetoes Israel-related resolutions

Palestinian authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/File)
Palestinian authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90/File)

A draft resolution on Palestinian statehood and the ending of Israeli control of the West Bank will be submitted to the UN Security Council Wednesday, after the Palestinians agreed with France on a merged text that removes recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said on Tuesday it did not automatically consider a UN Security Council proposal to be a unilateral measure, and said it was not true that the US vetoed all Security Council resolutions related to Israel.

Amid a lack of clarity over the final text to be submitted on behalf of the Palestinians, the US has not stated definitively whether it will use its veto.

“The draft that will be presented today (Wednesday) is the French draft based on Palestinian observations and decisions,” Maliki told AFP. “It will be presented to the Security Council as a blueprint, and could be put to a vote 24 hours after that,” he added.

One European-backed draft had set a two-year deadline for conclusive peace talks, without touching on the issue of Israeli control of the West Bank.

Maliki said France had now scrapped mention of the thorny issue of Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state from the draft, but gave no further details of its content. Israel has demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Palestinians have refused to do so, and earlier reports said the French-drafted resolution included such a provision.

The Palestinians began circulating a draft at the end of September, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that it was time to fast-track Palestinian statehood.

Diplomats said the original Arab-backed text setting November 2016 as the deadline for an Israeli withdrawal stood no chance of approval in the face of the threat of a US veto.

France stepped into the fray last month and, with Britain and Germany, began discussing options for a separate resolution setting a timeframe for negotiations on a final settlement.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of Abbas’s inner circle, said on Tuesday that France had “accommodated” the Palestinians and that delegates were pounding out a merged text.

State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that a “UN Security Council resolution is not, in our view, a unilateral measure by either one of the parties” but maintained that the US would oppose all drafts which “prejudge the outcome of the negotiations.”

Psaki said there was “there is a perception … that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true. We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, wrapping up a day of talks with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in London, insisted Tuesday night the US administration had “made no determinations… about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that.”

“What we’re trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward,” Kerry added.

“We want to find the most constructive way of doing something that… will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence.”

An unnamed Palestinian official described the meeting as “difficult.”

During the meeting, Kerry asked the Palestinian delegation not to rush ahead with the demand for a two-year timetable, and, according to the source, indicated the US would veto the resolution at the Security Council if it called for a timetable for Israel’s withdrawal, Ynet reported.

The US position is not to automatically veto any resolution, the report said, but it will veto a resolution that seeks to determine the result of negotiations before those negotiations are concluded.

Erekat reportedly told Kerry that Israel’s attitude to the Palestinians had left them no choice but to seek statehood via the UN, and said that if the US vetoed the resolution they would seek to join numerous UN and other international organizations en route to statehood, including the International Criminal Court. Such a move is opposed by Washington, which fears the Palestinians will seek to try Israeli officials for alleged war crimes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected any UN-imposed resolution relating to Palestinian statehood, insisting on a negotiated settlement. However, he will not negotiate with Abbas so long as the Palestinians are led by the Hamas-backed unity government that Abbas and the Islamists established last spring.

The reported compromise text came after a flurry of meetings between Kerry, Netanyahu, Palestinian negotiators and European ministers.

Washington has wielded its Security Council veto repeatedly in the past in support of its Israeli ally. The US administration has long insisted that a promised Palestinian state must come through negotiations with Israel.

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