US criticises proposal to recognise Palestinian statehood within three years

Washington says resolution to be voted on by UN Security Council ignores Israel's security concerns

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The Independent Online

Arab delegations to the UN have backed a proposal to create a Palestinian nation and for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territory, despite opposition from the US. The proposal is likely could be voted on as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jordanian UN Ambassador Dina Kawar, the only Arab representative on the revolving, 15-strong UN Security Council, told reporters that the envoys of a 22 Arab countries had supported the proposal, which would seek to forge a peace deal with Israel within a year and end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by the end of 2017.

Ms Kawar said Jordan would now consult with Palestine about the timing for submitting the resolution and arranging a vote, Reuters reported. It was anticipated the resolution would be formally submitted late on Monday evening.

The Jordanian diplomat had previously said she would like to see a resolution that was backed by all 15 members of the council, including the US.

But that seems extremely unlikely. On Monday, a spokesperson for the US State Department criticised the resolution and said it failed to address the security concerns of Israel.

“We think it sets arbitrary deadlines for reaching a peace agreement and for Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank, and those are more likely to curtail useful negotiations than to bring them to a successful conclusion,” spokesman Jeff Rathke said in Washington. “Further, we think that the resolution fails to account for Israel’s legitimate security needs.”

Jordan requires nine out of 15 votes for the measure to pass, but the US, as one of the five permanent members of the council, could veto the proposal. It has voted against similar resolutions on at least 40 occasions.

“Staunch US opposition to the latest Palestinian UN resolution to end Israeli military occupation and establish a Palestinian state is part of a long line of actions taken by the Obama administration to shield Israel in international forums,” Josh Ruebner, policy director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told The Independent.

He added: “Even though the US claims the status quo is unsustainable, it refuses to allow the UN to take action to break this log jam.”

Palestinian officials said the resolution calls for a return to territorial lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. An earlier Palestinian draft called for Jerusalem to be the shared capital of Israel and a Palestinian state, but the final proposal reverts to a harder line, saying only that East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine, said Reuters.

Israel has said a Security Council vote, following the collapse in April of US-brokered talks on Palestinian statehood, would deepen the conflict. It supports negotiations but rejects third-party timelines. Israel, which pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, has said its eastern border would be indefensible if it withdrew completely from the West Bank.

The developments at the UN in New York came after US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a final attempt to delay the submission of a Palestinian resolution to the Security Council.

Mr Abbas told Mr Kerry that he was determined to go ahead with the resolution, despite the international pressure on him, and that he wanted to secure the earliest possible vote.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the Palestinian initiative during a meeting on Monday with the Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is currently visiting Israel.

“We expect the entire international community, at least its responsible members, to strongly oppose this dictate to the UN and the Security Council. What we need is direct negotiations and not dictated terms,” he said, according to the Haaretz newspaper.

“If the international community does not reject the Palestinian Authority’s proposal, we will do so. Israel will oppose are conditions that endanger its security.”

Mr Abbas had said before the Arab group met that the revised resolution would be submitted Monday and voted on Tuesday.

The Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters after the meeting that a vote “could happen tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow”. But Ms Kawar, when asked whether the vote could be put off until after January 1, when five new members join the Security Council, said: “Everything is possible.”

John Quigley, a professor of law Ohio State University and the author of several books on Palestinian statehood, said he was surprised by the US stance, as the position of the Palestinians was similar to what had been advocated by Mr Kerry.

“The draft resolution calls for two states and a territorial disposition that would use the 1967 line as the starting point but would involve agreed swaps on either side of that line. This represents a major concession on the Palestinian side, as it would let Israel keep the territory on which it has built major settlements in the West Bank,” he said. “The resolution also puts Palestine membership in the UN off to the end of negotiations, in keeping with the US position against present UN membership for Palestine.”