US vying to avoid showdown over Palestinian proposal

US vying to avoid showdown over Palestinian proposal
US Secretary of State John Kerry is on a whirlwind tour of meetings in a diplomatic frenzy in response to Palestinian plans to seek UN approval for a two-year deadline for the end of Israeli occupation.
3 min read
15 December, 2014
US officials have little appetite for a vote in the United Nations Security Council [Getty]

US Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, a day after having met his Russian counterpart.

The flurry of diplomatic meetings comes ahead of a draft resolution the Palestinian leadership is set to present to the United Nations Security Council that would impose a two-year deadline for Israel to end its occupation, an official said.

     The PA leadership is under growing pressure to take action after the failure of negotiations.

"The Palestinian leadership took a decision to go to the Security Council next Wednesday to vote on their project to end the occupation," senior Palestine Liberation Organisation member Wassel Abu Yussef said on Sunday after a meeting in Ramallah.

Kerry arrived in Italy on Sunday amid a European-led drive to push moves towards Palestinian statehood, with US officials saying the secretaru of state sought to learn more about the European position.

After Netanyahu called snap elections for March, some Europeans have pointed to a narrow window of opportunity to push a Palestinian resolution at the Security Council.

Blocking the way

Click on individual settlements for information. Source: Americans for Peace Now

The United States has consistently used its UN veto power to block moves it sees as anti-Israel.

Frustrated by the moribund "peace process", the Ramallah-based authorities have launched a number of unilateral bids to gain recognition for Palestine in international bodies. The US and Israel have lobbied hard to stymie all of these efforts. 

However, US officials said they drew a distinction between a unilateral step, and an effort to draw up a multilateral resolution at the UN Security Council, which would have the backing of many nations.

US-Israeli relations have been strained by Washington's dismay with the intransigence of Netanyahu's extreme right-wing coalition and continued settlement expansion.

Since the Oslo peace process started in 1993, settlement growth has continued unabated. During Netanyahu's tenure the settler movement has been emboldened and as recently as last month additional construction was announced for settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

When US-brokered talks collapsed earlier in the year, Kerry expressed his exasperation on Israel's stance, including the announcement of 700 more settlement units at a sensitive juncture in the negotiations.  

Kerry will fly to London on Tuesday to meet chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi and several Arab foreign ministers.

The leadership within the Palestinian Authority is under growing pressure to take action after the failure of negotiations, the continued entrenchment of the occupation, the summer offensive on Gaza and mounting agressions in Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

An alternative route

Settlement statistics under Netanyahu. Click here for larger picture (graphics: Claudia Mateus)

 Jordan last month circulated a draft Palestinian text setting November 2016 as a deadline for the end of the Israeli occupation.

But the text ran into opposition from the United States because of its two-year timetable for the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the West Bank.

Netanyahu on Sunday rejected all talk of withdrawing from east Jerusalem and the West Bank within two years.

The France, UK and Germany are trying to win support for an alternative resolution that would try and revive a failed peace process and a return to negotiations.

Kerry's meetings with the Israeli, Palestinian, Russian and EU representatives are aimed at staving off a confrontation in the Security Council where the US' unbridled support for Israel is under scrutiny.