In order to stave off an avalanche of international support to a planned Palestinian appeal to the United Nations for statehood, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu engaged in a series of diplomatic consultations in Rome on Monday, Dec 15 to build opposition to such a gambit.
It has been reported that the Palestinians are prepared to approach the United Nations Security Council this week and Jordan, a non-permanent member of the council would most likely submit the draft on behalf of the Palestinians and a vote could possibly be held on Wednesday.
Besides meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Netanyahu also met with Secretary of State John Kerry. Topping the agenda of topics discussed was the Palestinian Authority’s plan to have the UN Security Council set a two-year deadline for a complete Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria; thus paving the way to an autonomous state of Palestine.
Netanyahu, however vowed the measure would not pass, prior to Monday’s meetings.
“We will not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable,” he said during his departure from Israel’s Ben Gurion airport. “In a reality in which Islamic terrorism is reaching out to all corners of the globe, we will rebuff any attempt that would put this terrorism inside our home,” said Netanyahu, who has categorically rejected demands for his country’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders as security threat.
Subsequent to his meeting with Kerry, Netanyahu issued a statement saying: “We discussed a range of issues including Iran, Syria, the war against ISIS and others. Of course, we also discussed at length the Palestinian issue. I very much appreciate the Secretary of State's efforts to prevent a deterioration in the region. I said that the attempts of the Palestinians and of several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel; therefore, we will strongly oppose this."
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. continues to support Palestinian statehood through negotiations but didn’t directly answer whether the U.S. would support or oppose proposals brought to the UN.
“Our belief is that a two-state solution, an agreement between the two parties, is the best way to achieve peace in the region,” Psaki said. “But the fact is that there are a number of countries out there that want to see action at the U.N. … so this is an appropriate time to have the discussion."
France recently proposed its own plan to restart the peace process that includes a Security Council resolution with a two-year deadline for an agreement, and an international conference.
France is among the growing list of European countries whose lawmakers are voting to recognize Palestinian statehood.
Several days ago Netanyahu spoke on the phone with French President Francois Hollande and asked him to halt the initiative being promoted by the country's foreign minister Laurent Fabius.
"I told Hollande that I think this move is a negative one and will backfire," Netanyahu told reporter after the meeting with Secretary of State Kerry in Rome. "Such a move is contrary to a peace agreement, it will thwart all future negotiations and bring about an escalation," Netanyahu said. He added: "Hollande listened, and I don't want to say what he said, but I said things very clearly."
Reports say that the French proposal is "very, very close to the Arab ideas" and includes a timeframe for negotiations, but the Palestinians "want to define clearly the end to occupation."
The Palestinians have said that they will not return to direct negotiations with Israel and strongly support the French proposal for an international conference to promote a peace deal that would include the five veto-wielding Security Council nations, key Arab countries and others.
In a statement Sunday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said recognition by European parliaments would put pressure “on reluctant governments, which will in turn pressure the entire international community,” including the United States.
These and other international moves, said the statement, come as the Palestinian leadership is “convinced that the negotiations path in its current form is not effective” for achieving timely statehood.
The diplomatic coordination over the Palestinian drive comes as Israel plunges into an election campaign in which Netanyahu is seeking a fourth term as prime minister. The elections will be held in March.
The campaign could bring back into focus the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the prospects for a two-state solution. In recent years, many Israelis have been more concerned with socioeconomic issues than with the permanent resolution of the conflict.
Still, the Palestinian issue -- and all related diplomacy, settlements, territorial concessions and security issues -- remains the central fault line dividing left and right, and will factor into the campaign.
In a meeting between Kerry and Palestinian Authority (PA) chief negotiator Saeb Erekat in London on Tuesday, Dec 16th, Kerry reportedly finally promised to veto a PA resolution bid at the UN Security Council after flip-flopping on US action, according to an INN report.
A PA official said the PA threatened that it will submit the draft resolution on Wednesday regardless of the veto, in a push to get the UN to recognize the PA as a state and demand Israel withdraw from Judea and Samaria within two years.
"Kerry told the Palestinian delegation: 'we will use our veto,'" the official said of the meeting, which was also to include Arab League secretary general Nabil al-Arabi. Kerry has until now not given a clear statement on whether or not the US will veto as it traditional has on such motions.
INN also reported that Erekat responded by telling Kerry if the US vetoes, the PA would apply to join all international organizations and conventions, including the International Criminal Court (ICC), in a further breach of the 1993 Oslo Accords beyond the conventions it joined earlier in the year torpedoing peace talks with Israel.
Aside from the PA resolution, France is also drafting another version setting a two-year deadline for reaching a "peace treaty," without explicitly demanding Israeli withdrawals.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting with Erekat, INN reported that Kerry said it is "imperative" to lower tensions in Israel, saying "many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this. But we're also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region."
When asked what kind of resolution the US would consider supporting at the UN, Kerry said the administration has "made no determinations...about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that."
He added that the US believes no one should "interfere or do something that might be perceived of as interfering in the course" of Israeli elections slated for March 17.
The statement is telling given reports that President Obama's administration and its European allies would like to use the PA proposal to put pressure on Israel, but are also concerned that such a betrayal of Israel may have the effect of solidifying support for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of the elections.
"What we're trying to do is have a constructive conversation with everybody to find the best way to go forward," Kerry added. "We want to find the most constructive way of doing something that...will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence."