Netanyahu to meet Kerry in Rome for talks on Abbas’s UN bid

Netanyahu to meet Kerry in Rome for talks on Abbas’s UN bid

Palestinians say they will go to Security Council on Wednesday seeking Israeli withdrawal to ’67 lines

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 11, 2014. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 11, 2014. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set out for Rome Monday morning where he will meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Prime Minister, two days before the Palestinians are set to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council demanding an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the recognition of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians announced late Sunday night that they were set to present the text to the UN body on Wednesday. The bid would set a two-year deadline for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank and East Jerusalem — a timetable which the United States has already opposed as complicating the stalled peace negotiations.

“The Palestinian leadership took a decision to go to the Security Council next Wednesday to vote on their project to end the occupation,” senior Palestine Liberation Organization member Wassel Abu Yussef told AFP Sunday after a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah.

Earlier Sunday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the draft resolution would be presented to the Security Council on Monday.

Kerry arrived in Rome Sunday where he met for more than three hours with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov seeking to head off the looming UN showdown.

“That’s not the way I think that we would look at handling a very complicated security negotiation by mandating a deadline of two years,” a State Department official said, asking not to be identified.

Kerry will fly to London on Tuesday to meet Erekat and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.

France stepped in last month to try to cobble together along with Britain and Germany a resolution that would win consensus at the 15-member council.

The text would call for a return to negotiations aimed at achieving a two-state solution by which Israel and a Palestinian state would co-exist.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the statehood bid ahead of Monday’s meeting in Rome.

After Netanyahu called snap elections for March, some Europeans have pointed to a narrow window of opportunity to push a Palestinian resolution at the Security Council.

In the past, the United States has consistently used its UN veto power to block moves it sees as anti-Israel, but US officials said they drew a distinction between a unilateral step, and an effort to draw up a multilateral resolution at the UN Security Council, which would have the backing of many nations.

US officials said Kerry was seeking to learn more about the European position, adding there did not appear to be a European consensus on any resolution.

A number of European countries have passed motions this year calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 lines.

The recent pro-recognition wave, which was spearheaded by Sweden and the UK in October, has been welcomed by the PA, but tested relations between Israel and the EU. Jerusalem has maintained that recognition should only come once bilateral negotiations produce a two-state solution.

Similar initiatives have also been voted on in France, Spain and Ireland. The European Parliament is expected to vote in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state on December 18.

The motions, however, are largely symbolic in nature and intended to put pressure on both sides to renew peace negotiations, which stalled in April after a nine-month, US-brokered effort.

Netanyahu on Sunday rejected all talk of withdrawing from East Jerusalem and the West Bank within two years.

Pulling out now would bring “Islamic extremists to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem,” he said.

The Palestinian leadership also decided Sunday to continue the security coordination with Israel for the time being, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported, backtracking on earlier threats to dissolve security ties in the wake of the death of a senior PA official last week.

Following the death of senior Fatah official Ziad Abu Ein last Wednesday after clashing with Israel Defense Forces soldiers, former Preventive Security Force head Jibril Rajoub said the PA had no choice but to respond, given that Israel had “crossed a red line.”

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