The Palestinian Authority has refused to postpone a vote on a UN Security Council statehood bid until after Israel’s March 17 elections, despite international pressure, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Monday.
Separately, top PA official Saeb Erekat said the resolution will be ready for a vote “in the next few days” and denied that US Secretary of State John Kerry had urged the Palestinian leadership to push off the vote until after elections.
Recent reports indicated that Kerry had been pushing for the Palestinians to delay the vote, worrying that it could strengthen the Israeli right wing ahead of election day.
In an interview with the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper, al-Maliki said the PA discussed the timing of the UN Security Council resolution with Kerry, and how it would affect the Israeli elections.
“But 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.”
Al-Maliki said the US fully understands the circumstances surrounding the Palestinian bid.
He said the Palestinians will soon examine whether they can win the nine votes they need backing the resolution in the Security Council, to potentially prompt a US veto, but stressed again that the vote would not be pushed back past the March elections.
Washington said last week it would not support the resolution in its current form, though officials signaled the US could be open to softened versions of the bid, which calls for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines by 2017.
Foreign Policy reported over the weekend that at a recent annual luncheon with the 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.
In an interview with Army Radio on Monday, Erekat said Kerry did not mention delaying the bid until after elections lest it serve the right-wing parties. 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 former Palestinian chief negotiator, Erekat said the Palestinians were set to have “technical and expert consultations” on Monday “and we hope to move the resolution, which is now in the blueprint stage, to the Security Council in the next few days.”
In the Foreign Policy report, a European diplomat was quoted as saying: “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.”
The diplomat also said that Kerry spoke about a warning issued to him by Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni and former president Shimon Peres that a favorable UN vote “imposed by the international community would reinforce [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu and the hardliners in Israel.”
Livni was harshly criticized by right-wing politicians for turning to Kerry. In defending herself on Sunday, she said she had asked the US secretary of state to prevent the vote from happening altogether, not merely delay it until after elections.
The Palestinians submitted a draft United Nations Security Council resolution last Thursday that requested a 12-month deadline to reach a peace deal with Israel and designated the end of 2017 as the final date for completing an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Jordan, which submitted the bid, said last week that it would “take time” before the measure came up for a vote.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.