The US on Thursday said it plans to veto a Palestinian UN Security Council resolution setting a three-year timetable for Israel and its security forces to withdraw from the West Bank.
“We have seen the draft. It is not something we would support,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
“We think others feel the same and are calling for further consultations. The Palestinians understand that. You may have also seen [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas speak to this earlier today.... They support continued consultations and they are not pushing for a vote on this now.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry and US officials had hinted throughout the week that they were unlikely to support a resolution that set such a timetable and attempted to unilaterally impose a solution, as opposed to a resolution that supported a negotiated process.
Psaki’s announcement, which came just one day after Jordan filed the resolution on behalf of the Palestinians and the UN’s Arab Group, cast doubt on whether the Security Council would vote on the resolution.
France is working with Great Britain and Germany to find a consensus text that could pass in the Security Council.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Hamas will control the West Bank – just as it controls Gaza – if the Palestinians succeed in their UN Security Council bid to force an Israeli withdrawal.
“[Abbas] thinks he can threaten us with unilateral steps. He does not understand that they will result in a Hamas takeover in Judea and Samaria, just as previously occurred in Gaza,” Netanyahu said. “We will not allow this to happen. We will never agree to unilateral diktat.”
The prime minister spoke as he lit the hanukkia in his office with his staff. He linked the Maccabees’ battle to overthrow their oppressors centuries ago with Israel’s fight to ensure its security.
“We will always safeguard our security. This is our lesson both from the days of the Maccabees and in our day,” Netanyahu said.
Abbas said that he, too, is attempting to safeguard his people. The Palestinian statehood bid at the Security Council is “in the context of our political battle to end occupation and consolidate Palestinian independence.”
On Wednesday night, Jordan, on behalf of the UN’s Arab Group and the Palestinians, formally submitted a draft resolution to the Security Council that calls for a one-year timetable for a negotiated two-state solution, based on the pre-1967 lines, “with mutually agreed, limited, equivalent land swaps.”
Once negotiations are concluded, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank within two years, by the end of 2017, according to the draft resolution. It demands a “full and phased withdrawal” of IDF forces by that date, with arrangements for border security as well as the possibility of a third-party presence.
Abbas said the Palestinian plan “welcomes holding an international conference to launch peace talks with Israel for no longer than one year.
According to the draft resolution, Jerusalem would be the capital of both states, and there would be a “just and agreed” solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees on the basis of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.
It also called on Palestinians and Israelis to refrain from unilateral action and illegal actions, including settlement activities.
The Palestinian resolution makes no mention of a Jewish state, whereas the French resolution has language referring to UN General Assembly Resolution 181 from November 29, 1947, calling for the partition of British- ruled Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states.
It does speak of Gaza as an integral part of the Palestinian state and calls for the expansion of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other UN organizations in Gaza to “redress the unsustainable situation.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would give the Security Council status updates every three months, the resolution said.
A copy of the draft resolution was given to all Security Council member states. It can be voted on 24 hours after its submission. As of press time no vote had been scheduled.
The Jordanians and the French had hoped to jointly submit a resolution but at the last moment on Wednesday failed to reach a consensus. The submitted Palestinian draft does appear, however, to reflect some European ideas.
France plans to move forward with its own separate resolution, together with Britain and Germany.
Former president Shimon Peres met French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday.
After the meeting, Peres said the two had discussed the French draft resolution.
He assured Hollande that Israel supports Palestinian statehood but believes the path to a two-state solution is through negotiations.
“You can’t impose it,” he said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the resolution would propose concluding peace talks within two years. Other parameters for ending the conflict would also be set, diplomats said.
One European diplomat bewailed that Israel has simply said no to the French proposal, without engaging with European diplomats over what type of language would be acceptable to Jerusalem.
The support of nine out of the 15 members of the Security Council is needed for the Jordanian resolution to pass. It is unclear whether the Palestinians’ draft will be voted upon in the Security Council, and if so, whether it would get the nine votes required to pass.
It is widely expected that the US would veto the Jordanian resolution.
It is less clear how the US would act regarding a milder French resolution, as comments by Kerry and US officials indicated that the US could be open to supporting a text that advanced the peace process.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called the Jordanian resolution another “aggressive act” by the Palestinians.
Abbas, Liberman said, “is leading processes intended only to bash Israel, and which have no benefit to the Palestinians.”
On the contrary, he said, such steps will only exacerbate the conflict and worsen the situation on the ground, and will certainly not lead to an accord, because without Israel’s agreement “nothing will change.”
Liberman said it would also be better if the Security Council would deal with “truly important” matters for the peace of the world, such as how to combat the murderous terrorism that was seen this week in Australia and Pakistan, or the situation in Syria and Libya, rather than wasting its time on Palestinian “gimmicks.”
Speaking to reporters last night after two meetings with the Arab Group, the ambassador for the Observer State of Palestine, Riyad Mansour said he was “grateful to the brothers in our group… for dealing with this issue diligently and at a high level of responsible action.
“The fact that we are submitting a draft is not closing the door for a continuation of a negotiation with all our partners. We appreciate their effort, [that of] all of our partners, our traditional base and European friends,” he continued, “and we will continue to negotiate with all of them, and with the Americans when they are ready and willing, and perhaps we can succeed in the Security Council to open a serious door for peace.”