Do Palestinians need a UNSC vote for their PR battle against the US?

The picture of an isolated US when it comes to major diplomatic initiative by American President Donald Trump would be the best response for the Palestinian Authority.

PA PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas – ‘He makes threats and engages in fiery rhetoric as part of a strategy to appease the Palestinian public.’ (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
PA PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas – ‘He makes threats and engages in fiery rhetoric as part of a strategy to appease the Palestinian public.’
Tuesday’s high-level anticipated diplomatic showdown at the UN Security Council in New York between the Palestinian Authority and the United States, appeared to end on Monday night, before a single shot had been fired.
In an unexpected twist, the PA delayed its resolution against the Trump administration’s peace plan and any potential Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank.
But the resolution never had a shot at passage because the US had always sworn to veto it. So why should the Palestinians have push forward at all? And if the venture was doomed from the start, why delay and give the appearance of pulling back at the critical moment?
Dangling in front of the PA is a simple picture that they believe is worth 1,000 words, even if in the end the PA falls on its sword as it races to obtain it.
In that fantasy visual, a vote will be called on a resolution put forward on the PA’s behalf by two UNSC member states, Tunisia and Indonesia. At that moment, 14 of the 15 Security Council member states will raise their hands in support of the resolution. Effectively, this means they will also raise their hands against the Trump administration’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, known as the “Deal of the Century.”
The picture of an isolated US, when it comes to a major diplomatic initiative by President Donald Trump, would be the best possible PA response to a peace plan that did not include the authority in the formation of its text and which it feels does not reflect its basic redline needs for a viable state.
It’s one thing for the PA to say “no” to the “Deal of the Century” from Ramallah. It’s quite another thing to reject the plan from the room of one of the most powerful international organs – and with the obvious support of everyone in the room save for the US.
Out of all of the UN bodies, the 15-member Security Council stands slightly apart, because its actions carry the most weight.
Trump, of course, has never seemed particularly worried about standing in isolation on the international stage. But at the end of the day, even he knows that his plan will need a certain amount of international support to be successful.
A US and Israeli comeback to the PA push would be to ensure that America is not the sole vote against the plan. Every vote against the pro-Palestinian resolution and/or every abstention combats the vision of an isolated US. The best-case scenario for Washington and Jerusalem is for the PA to lack the support of nine member states needed for the approval of any resolution.
Even better from the American and Israeli perspective would be if the five European nations in the council are among those that oppose the resolution, or at least abstain. This would include Estonia, Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
From the starting gate, the cards appeared stacked against the US and Israel because, in reality, the PA does have the support of the UNSC on two critical points: First, the council has in the past maintained that any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be based on the pre-1967 lines. Second, it has also held as illegal any Israeli settlement and or annexation activity, including in Jerusalem’s historic and biblical Old City.
The latest text to that effect was Resolution 2334, which passed in 2016 with the approval of 14 of the 15 member states. The US abstained and did not exercise its veto. But the abstention was seen at the time as tacit US approval.
The question that had been slated to be in front of the UNSC members on Tuesday, however, was not necessarily their opinions on the best resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but whether they support the text of this particular resolution and if they are ready at this stage to so obviously oppose the Trump administration’s plan.
That an alternative draft to the original resolution had been circulated meant that Security Council support was not assured. The depth of UNSC opposition is measured by the extent of the changes. Each change means the PA is far from securing 14 votes or maybe even nine. But every change also harms the Israeli and US battle to ensure that the resolution is rejected outright.
Two significant changes designed to help ensure passage were reflected in a draft resolution circulated to reporters over the weekend. It waters down objection to the US plan and includes language in the preamble that condemns “all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction.”
It is the kind of language that European states often look for to provide balance to anti-Israel resolutions, and its inclusions often paves the way for their approval of such texts.
It should be noted that EU High Representative Josep Borrell has just returned from a trip to Washington where he met with Trump. The two discussed the US peace initiative.
The initial battle for votes appeared to end Monday night, with speculation high that the Palestinians pulled back either because they lacked 14 votes or because they lacked the initial nine. The Palestinians have insisted that they plan to push forward on another day. Israel can temporarily bask in one of the rare moments in its diplomatic battle with the Palestinians, a fleeting sense of victory.
But even without a vote, the Palestinians walk away with a number of wins.
That is because the UN gives the Palestinians a stage in front of the international community in which they can act with all the appearance of a state, because they have nonmember rights at the UN.
The first victory for the PA will be the speech its president Mahmoud Abbas is slated to deliver to the council on Tuesday. It’s a high-level forum in which he has rarely appeared.
The Palestinians could also skip the Security Council and head to the UN General Assembly, and there the resolution does not necessarily need to be watered down. The UNGA has little power beyond that of a public-relations show, but the Palestinians have an automatic majority in their favor there.
At the General Assembly Israel and the US can only hope to walk away with what they call the support of the moral majority, meaning a show of solidarity by primarily Western countries. Israel will also look to measure the success of its Africa policy by looking to see which African countries vote in its favor.
In the end – UNSC vote or not – Israel and the US can tarnish but not totally diminish the power of the Palestinians at the UN.