US Secretary of State John Kerry will hold an emergency meeting in Rome on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the anticipated pre- Christmas United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution setting a final deadline for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines.
Palestinians want to see Israel leave the West Bank and east Jerusalem within two years, but a final time table for the resolution has not been set.
If the Security Council rejects the resolution, then on that same day Palestinians will join the International Criminal Court by signing the Rome Statute and other relevant documents, Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat told journalists at a Christmas dinner in Bethlehem on Tuesday night.
“We are hoping to achieve [a Security Council] resolution before the end of this month, before Christmas,” Erekat said.
He added he does not believe that the resolution would be vetoed by any of the five members of the 15-nation Security Council that have the power to do so.
“I do not expect that people who are seeking to maintain and preserve the two-state resolution in 1967, that they will be confronted with a veto,” he said.
It is expected the US would stop a Palestinian resolution, because in the past it has spoken repeatedly against such unilateral moves.
Erekat said he does not believe the US would use its veto power at the council.
“I do not believe that this will happen, not at a time when the US is having a coalition with Arab and Muslim countries [to fight Islamic State],” Erekat said.
But should that happen, Erekat warned, “We will be joining the ICC. And we are in the process of finalizing the documents to achieve this.”
Erekat spoke just one day after the Assembly of the State Parties of the Rome Statute of the ICC met in New York and recognized the “State of Palestine” as an observer nation to its proceedings.
The move, however, does not change Palestinian standing before the ICC tribunal at The Hague in the Netherlands. That can only be done by the ICC. Acceptance of a Palestinian application for membership would pave the way for Israel to be sued for war crimes before its tribunal.
Israel and the US have worked to avoid this step. In the past months, US Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken repeatedly with Israeli and Palestinian leaders about the possibility of resuming direct negotiations, which broke down in April.
Now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has dissolved, such talks could resume only after the March 17 elections.
The Palestinians say they want to resume negotiations, but only after a Security Council resolution.
“We want a security council resolution that will preserve the two-state solution and that will preserve the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders,” Erekat told journalists.
This is a conflict, he said, that will be solved only with the help of the international community.
“We are trying to internationalize our cause,” he added.
It is significant, he said, that European parliaments have held nonbinding votes to recognize the “State of Palestine.”
“People are telling Israel, enough is enough,” he said.
He added that he hopes the nation states who were party to the Fourth Geneva Convention will convene to declare its applicability to the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem.
Should this happen, he said, Palestine would be considered a country “under occupation,” just as nations were during World War II. The Palestinians, he added, have asked UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-Moon for international military protection from Israel.
Erekat also warned against turning the Israeli- Palestinian conflict into a religious one.
“Judaism is not a threat to us. It is one of God’s great religions. We have a conflict that is political in nature and not religious,” he said.
“This conflict has a political solution.”
Transforming it into a religious conflict would “mean more bloodshed.” The way to avoid that violence, he said, is a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines.
“This is a year of choice” for the international community when it comes a Palestinian state, Erekat said.
“We hope nations will stand shoulder to shoulder with us,” he added.
Israel, which supports a two-state solution, has warned that a Security Council resolution would rob the Palestinians of any incentive to negotiate, because it would give them the impression they can achieve statehood on their terms without direct talks.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro spoke of the importance of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at an address he delivered at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Ramat Gan on Tuesday evening.
“Unilateral actions, whether Palestinian initiatives at the United Nations or Israeli settlement construction and announcements, are counterproductive and only delay a resolution [of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict],” Shapiro said.
The US, he said, will continue to explore ways to “reestablish a political horizon” in spite of the Israeli elections.
America is committed to a two-state solution, and keeping alive the hope of such a resolution to the conflict, he said.
Shapiro urged Israelis to remember that US presidents can be strong international leaders, even in their last terms in office. The strong Republican showing in the midterm elections, will not prevent President Barack Obama from engaging in important foreign policy initiatives, Shapiro stressed.
“Here is a caution, lest anyone jump to conclusions: Divided government, in which one party controls Congress and the other the Executive Branch, does not necessarily mean foreign policy gridlock,” he said. “Whether faced with domestic political gridlock or not, presidents often surge and engage even more intensively in national security affairs in their final years in office.”