Palestinians submit revised statehood draft to UN

Washington calls resolution ‘unconstructive,’ signaling it will veto the bid when it comes up for a Security Council vote

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Algiers, December 23, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Farouk Batiche)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Algiers, December 23, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Farouk Batiche)

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinian leadership on Monday presented changes to a UN draft resolution on statehood that could come up for a vote at the Security Council as early as this week.

The United States again rejected the text that would pave the way to a Palestinian state by setting a 12-month deadline to reach a final peace deal and calling for Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines by the end of 2017.

Arab ambassadors endorsed the text, which contains new provisions on declaring East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state, settling the issue of Palestinian prisoner releases and halting Jewish settlements.

But a final decision on the timing for a vote on the draft resolution at the Security Council rests with Palestinian and Jordanian leaders.

“Both our leaderships will be discussing, to find the best way and the best timing to vote on the Security Council resolution,” Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar told reporters.

“Realistically, it could happen tomorrow,” added Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour.

The 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.

But the latest push showed that prospects for a resolution that would satisfy both the Palestinians and the United States were bleak.

Discussions on the draft resolution come amid mounting international alarm over the ongoing violence and the failure to re-start negotiations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday about the latest Palestinian push at the United Nations.

“We don’t think this resolution is constructive,” said State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke. “We don’t believe this resolution (…) advances the goal of a two-state solution.

“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.

“Further, we think that the resolution fails to account for Israel’s legitimate security needs, and the satisfaction of those needs, of course, integral to a sustainable settlement,” Rathke said.

It remained unclear if the Palestinians would seek a quick vote or hold off until January 1, when five new members with a pro-Palestinian stance join the Security Council.

Diplomats said it was unlikely that the resolution would garner nine votes under the current makeup of the council — a scenario that would allow the United States to avoid resorting to its veto power.

A US veto risks angering key Arab allies, including partners in the US-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela begin their two-year stint at the council on January 1, replacing Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Rwanda and South Korea.

Several European parliaments have adopted non-binding motions calling for recognition of Palestine and there are fears of a return to war unless peace efforts are revived.

The Palestinians have warned that if the bid to win support for a UN resolution fails, they are prepared to join the International Criminal Court to file suits against Israel.

They will also take action at the UN General Assembly and in other international fora to force the issue of Palestinian statehood on the agenda.

“If the Arab-Palestinian initiative submitted to the Security Council to put an end to occupation doesn’t pass, we will be forced to take the necessary political and legal decisions,” Abbas said last week.

“If it fails, we will no longer deal with the Israeli government, which will then be forced to assume its responsibilities as an occupier.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected efforts to impose terms via the UN, and calls for a negotiated resolution of the conflict. However, he has refused to restart talks with the Abbas-led PA so long as it remains partnered with Hamas, the Gaza-based Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, in a Palestinian unity government.

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