Palestinian statehood resolution fails at UN Security Council

Palestinian statehood resolution fails at UN Security Council

US veto not needed as motion falls one vote short, with last-minute Nigerian change of heart. France among 8 votes in favor; US, Australia against, five abstain

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, right, votes during a meeting of the UN Security Council Tuesday, December 30, 2014 (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP)
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, right, votes during a meeting of the UN Security Council Tuesday, December 30, 2014 (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP)

The UN Security Council on Tuesday rejected a resolution on Palestinian statehood, with the Palestinians failing to get the minimum nine “yes” votes required for adoption by the 15-member council: Eight voted for the resolution and two voted against, with five abstentions.

France, China and Russia were among the countries that supported the text setting a 12-month deadline for negotiations on a final peace deal with Israel and an imposed full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem by the end of 2017. Argentina, Chad, Chile, Jordan and Luxembourg also voted for the resolution.

Australia and the United States voted against.

PA envoy Riyad Mansour said Palestinian leaders would be meeting Wednesday “and will decide on (our) next steps.” It was unclear what those steps would be, though Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat had said before the vote that the PA could return again to the Security Council, which will have five new members starting Thursday who are viewed as more sympathetic to their cause.

If the council says “no” again, he said, the Palestinians will seek to join the International Criminal Court. They could then seek to press charges against Israel for war crimes.

Until shortly before the vote, council diplomats had expected the resolution to get nine “yes” votes. Had this been the case, the US would likely have used its veto to block the resolution. But Nigeria, which had been expected to vote “yes,” abstained at the last minute, leaving the Palestinian Authority one vote short of the required number.

Nigeria’s ambassador, U. Joy Ogwu, echoed the US position saying the ultimate path to peace lies “in a negotiated solution.”

The other four abstentions were those of the UK, Lithuania, South Korea and Rwanda.

Israel was quick to capitalize on its diplomatic victory over the Palestinian Authority, with its envoy calling PA conduct at the UN a “march of folly” and its effort to win UN support for a peace deal within a year a “provocation.” The Palestinians, meanwhile, lamented what they called the paralysis of the council.

The Ynet News site noted that Israeli diplomats were disappointed with France, which supported the resolution despite its objections to its wording and its failed attempt to bring through a much more moderate version.

France backed the resolution because of an “urgent need to act,” Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council. He expressed disappointment that efforts to negotiate a text that could win consensus failed.

“Our efforts must not stop here. It is our responsibility to try again. Before it’s too late.”

Jordan’s UN Ambassador Dina Kawar, the Arab representative on the Security Council, said after the vote: “The fact that this draft resolution was not adopted will not at all prevent us from proceeding to push the international community, specifically the United Nations, towards an effective involvement to achieving a resolution to this conflict.”

US Ambassador Samantha Power said: “We voted against this resolution not because we are comfortable with the status quo. We voted against it because … peace must come from hard compromises that occur at the negotiating table.”

Mansour said after the vote: “Our effort was a serious effort, a genuine effort, to open the door for peace. Unfortunately, the Security Council is not ready to listen to that message.”

The Palestinians had claimed earlier Tuesday that they had the nine votes needed to pass the latest version of the statehood resolution.

 Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, December 30, 2014, at the United Nations headquarters (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP)

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, December 30, 2014, at the United Nations headquarters (Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP)

A US veto would have risked angering key Arab allies, including partners in the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The resolution was voted on at midnight Israel time. It capped a three-month campaign by the Palestinians at the United Nations to win support for the resolution that sets a timeframe for ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

“This resolution sets the stage for more division, not for compromise,” said Power.

She criticized the decision to bring the draft resolution to a vote as a “staged confrontation that will not bring the parties closer.” She added that the resolution was “deeply unbalanced” and didn’t take into account Israel’s security concerns. “This text addresses the concerns of just one side,” said Power.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had lobbied in the days leading up to the vote, calling 13 foreign ministers to explain US opposition.

Jordan’s Kawar told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Arab group earlier Tuesday that the 22 envoys supported the Palestinian call for an immediate vote on the final draft they submitted on Monday.

The resolution called for Israel to pull out of the West Bank within three years and for the declaration of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Channel 2 reported earlier Tuesday that, according to the Palestinians, France and Luxembourg would vote in favor of the resolution, giving them the requisite support of nine of the 15 Security Council members, and forcing the US veto. Nigeria’s shift upset the Palestinian calculations.

The US has insisted on a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, not an imposed timetable. Kerry had held a series of telephone conversations over the last 48 hours with the foreign ministers of Britain, Chile, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Russia and Saudi Arabia. He also spoke with Rwanda’s president and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

US Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels, Belgium on December 2, 2014 (Photo credit: John Thys/AFP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry in Brussels, Belgium on December 2, 2014 (Photo credit: John Thys/AFP)

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington that many countries shared the US sentiment that the resolution was “unconstructive and poorly timed.”

“Every month that goes by without constructive engagement between the parties just increases polarization and allows more space for destabilizing efforts,” Rathke said.

Britain had indicated on Tuesday that it would not support the resolution. British Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that the UK was not happy with the phrasing of the resolution.

“There’s some difficulties with the text, particularly language on time scales, new language on refugees. So I think we would have some difficulties,” he said in response to questions about the draft.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called on the Security Council members to vote down the resolution and focus on encouraging negotiations instead.

“Canada fundamentally believes that Palestinian statehood can only be a by-product of negotiations with the State of Israel,” Baird said in a statement. “We have long rejected unilateral action on either side, as we believe it is ultimately unhelpful to the cause of peace.”

“The resolution that was submitted to the United Nations Security Council on December 29 is just another attempt to circumvent negotiations and place preconditions on future discussions,” he continued. “Canada therefore calls upon members of the UN Security Council to reject this resolution and instead use its influence to urge both sides to sit down without preconditions.”

An earlier draft resolution was formally presented to the council on December 17, but the United States quickly rejected the text over Palestinian insistence that deadlines be set.

The Palestinians had said they were open to negotiations on the text and Jordan began talks on a measure that could garner a consensus among the 15 council members, resulting in the updated text.

The changed draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, affirmed the urgent need to achieve “a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution” to the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict within 12 months and set a December 31, 2017 deadline for Israel’s occupation to end.

A text circulated by several media sources claimed to show the changed draft.

Many of the changes to the draft were semantic, such as the addition of the word “just,” to a call for a solution for outstanding issues including Palestinian refugees, prisoners in Israeli jails and water.

The earlier draft had used the word “agreed.”

The new text also called for an independent state of Palestine to be established within the June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and security arrangements “including through a third-party presence.”

The earlier draft mentioned Jerusalem only as a shared capital.

The eight amendments also included new provisions recalling that Israel’s West Bank barrier was declared illegal and demanding an end to Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian territories and East Jerusalem.

Rathke had told reporters in Washington on Monday that the new draft resolution “is not something that we would support, and other countries share the same concerns that we have.”

“We think it sets arbitrary deadlines for reaching a peace agreement and for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, and those are more likely to curtail useful negotiations than to bring them to a successful conclusion,” Rathke said. “Further, we think that the resolution fails to account for Israel’s legitimate security needs.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Monday that if the Security Council doesn’t reject the resolution, “we will.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference held in Jerusalem, December 17, 2014. (Emil Salman/POOL/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference held in Jerusalem, December 17, 2014. (Emil Salman/POOL/FLASH90)

The Palestinian Authority was “seeking to impose on us a diktat that would undermine Israel’s security, put its future in peril,” he said. “Israel will oppose conditions that endanger our future.”

Netanyahu said Israel expected at least “the responsible members” of the international community to vigorously oppose the resolution “because what we need always is direct negotiations and not imposed conditions.”

The Palestinians initially circulated a draft resolution on October 1 asking the council to set a deadline of November 2016 for an Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian territory occupied since 1967. France had been working for a UN resolution aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, setting a two-year deadline for success.

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