Palestinians: We have votes for UN statehood resolution

UK and US oppose draft, but PA claims France, Luxembourg among 9 states backing move; vote scheduled for midnight

British United Nations Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant. (screen capture: YouTube/NewsFromUkraine)
British United Nations Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant. (screen capture: YouTube/NewsFromUkraine)

The Palestinians claimed Tuesday that they have the nine votes needed to pass the latest version of the statehood resolution they presented to the UN Security Council.

The resolution was scheduled to be voted on at midnight Israel time. Jordan’s UN Ambassador Dina Kawar, the Arab representative on the Security Council, told reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Arab group Tuesday that the 22 envoys supported the Palestinian call for an immediate vote on the final draft they submitted on Monday.

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

Channel 2 reported that, according to the Palestinians, France and Luxembourg will vote in favor of the resolution, giving them the requisite support of nine of the 15 Security Council members. This would likely force a US veto. The US has insisted on a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, not an imposed timetable.

The Security Council is calling for a vote Tuesday evening on the resolution.

US Secretary of State John Kerry held a series of telephone conversations on the Palestinian resolution, speaking 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 leader Mahmoud Abbas.

State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington that many countries shared the US sentiment that the resolution was “unconstructive and poorly timed.” He wouldn’t say whether the Palestinians might still have enough backers to force an American veto.

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

Britain indicated on Tuesday that it will not support the resolution, aligning itself with fellow Security Council member the United States, Reuters reported.

British Ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that the UK is 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.

Grant did not comment on whether the UK, like the US, would use its power of veto to block the resolution if it gained enough votes to pass.

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, affirms the urgent need to achieve “a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution” to the decades-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict within 12 months and sets a December 31, 2017 deadline for Israel’s occupation to end.

A text circulated by several media sources claimed to show the changed draft, but it could not be immediately confirmed.

Many of the changes to the draft, which is widely expected to fail, 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 calls 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 include 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.

US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke 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.”

The Palestinian Authority is “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 expects 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 Oct. 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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