Obama smiles 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
No anti-Israel resolution on east Jerusalem was in the works at the UN Security Council, senior officials in Washington were quoted Tuesday as saying, amid reports that the US would not veto such a resolution if it were brought to the UN body.
Ynet cited an Obama administration official as saying that no such initiative was before the Security Council, “and we are not pursuing or encouraging any such action.”
The BBC, quoting a US official, reported Sunday that the US might abstain
on a possible Security Council measure concerning Israeli construction in east Jerusalem.
According to the report, the unnamed official spoke about the matter with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani last week in Paris, and said the US would “seriously consider abstaining” if Israeli construction in east Jerusalem were brought to a vote.
The US is one of five permanent members of the Security Council, and as such has veto power. While the US has often used its veto to block resolutions condemning Israel, a US abstention would likely allow such a resolution to pass.
Government officials in Jerusalem said they were unaware of any discussion on the matter in Washington, or whether the matter had come up during Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s discussions last week in Washington.
US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the US and Israel’s ties were "solid as a rock" and that the recent tensions over building in east Jerusalem were a "disagreement among friends."
Speaking with MSNBC, the president said that “Netanyahu intellectually understands that he has got to take some bold steps. I think politically he feels it. But it's not just on the Israeli side. I've been very clear that the Palestinians have to take steps."
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs played down reports that Obama had “punished” Netanyahu by keeping their talks private.
“I’m puzzled by the notion that somehow it’s a bad deal to get two hours with the president almost entirely alone,” he said. “That doesn’t seem like a lot of punishment to me.”
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described as a “work in progress” attempts to get Israelis and Palestinians to take confidence-building measures to pave the way for indirect talks.
“I think we are hopeful that we can push this process forward after taking a break for the holiday period in the region,” Crowley said Monday in Washington, adding that the US hoped “the parties will repeat to us in the near future what they have said to us in the recent past, which is they are ready to move forward with these proximity talks.”
Government sources in Jerusalem said that the inner cabinet, known as the “septet ” – which last met on Sunday to discuss Israel’s reply to demands made by US President Barack Obama, including an end to construction in east Jerusalem, an extension of the 10-month housing-start moratorium, and an agreement to deal with issues of settlements, refugees and Jerusalem in the proximity talks – would likely meet again during Pessah to formulate Israel’s response.
With the septet grappling with the issue, there are also sharp differences emerging in the White House regarding Middle East policy, according to a report on the Politico Web site.
According to the report, White House Middle East strategist Dennis Ross “is staking out a position that Washington needs to be sensitive to Netanyahu’s domestic political constraints,” while other officials aligned with Middle East envoy George Mitchell are pushing for written commitments from Israel “to avoid provocations that imperil Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and to preserve the Obama administration’s credibility.”
In a related development, US Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, was to leave Tuesday to Syria and Lebanon to look into the possibility of restarting a diplomatic process between Israel and Syria.
Kerry was also to stop in Italy and meet with officials there, said spokesman Fred Jones.
Massachusetts lawmaker, once touted as a possible secretary of state,
was set to make the trip while Congress was on a two-week recess that
ends the week of April 12.
Kerry was in Israel at the beginning of March.
News agencies contributed to this report.