We’re Going to the UNby Abdullah H. Erakat/The Media Line October 22, 2014
A PLO official says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will not stop the Palestinians from seeking recognition for Palestine from the United Nations Security Council. He warned that if, as expected the US vetoes the resolution, “they will have to bear the consequences of no peace and no security.”
PLO Executive Committee Member Wasel Abu Yousef says Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that Kerry had talked to him about his plan to restart talks on the sidelines of a Norwegian-sponsored donor conference in Egypt to rebuild the Gaza Strip after seven weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The PLO has said it is open to meaningful initiatives based on international law that aim to put a time frame on ending Israel’s control of the West Bank. The Palestinians have already circulated a draft resolution that calls for Israel to “end the occupation,” meaning a withdrawal from the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem by November, 2016. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel will never withdraw to the pre-1967 lines.
Secretary Kerry has reportedly asked the Palestinians to postpone turning to the UN for one year while he tries to rekindle negotiations that would lead to an agreement. Palestinians say they refuse to hold off any longer.
“This move [Kerry’s plan] is trying to prevent the Palestinians from going [to the UN] but it will not. We are going,” Abu Yousef told The Media Line.
The U.S. has said it opposes what it considers to be unilateral action taken by the Palestinians, including turning to the UN. But a former Palestinian official says by presenting his plan to the UN, Abbas is doing the U.S. and Europe a favor.
“The U.S. should not consider the Palestinian initiative as poking the U.S. in the eye,” former Palestinian spokesperson Nour Odeh told The Media Line. “Why would anyone oppose putting a deadline on the occupation if they all agree it must end? Why would the U.S. oppose an initiative that clearly says once the deadline is endorsed, negotiations based on these agreed parameters will begin and end within a define timeline leading to implementation and end of conflict?”
Abbas has not said when he will go to the 15-member Security Council. At least nine countries have to be in favor for a resolution to even be discussed and any of the five permanent members – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, and China – can veto a resolution. Palestinian official Taysir Khaled says seven countries – Russia, China, Jordan, Chad Chile, Nigeria and Argentina – favor a UN vote on recognizing Palestine, leaving two more votes needed. In 2012 the General Assembly recognized Palestine as a non-member observer state similar to the Vatican.
The U.S. has already said it would veto any Security Council resolution, but it would prefer to avoid the negative reaction that will spark in the Arab world.
“By vetoing us, they are standing by an occupation which they have said must end and they will have to bear the consequence of no peace and no security in this conflict,” Abu Yousef told The Media Line angrily.
The European Union has sharply criticized some of Israel ’s actions, while at the same time urging the PA not to take unilateral action.
“There is growing frustration with the peace process in its current form,” EU Representative John Gatt-Rutter told The Media Line. “The EU has warned on many occasions of actions that undermine the viability of the two-state solution such as the continuing expansion of settlements, the growing violence in the West Bank by Israeli settlers, house demolitions, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, and actions that undermine the status quo of the holy sites, including in Jerusalem.”
Political analyst and Birzeit University professor George Jaqaman says the Americans are doing everything to avoid a veto because it will make them look bad. He says another reason Kerry could be announcing a new peace plan now is “to try to forestall the possibility of having the Palestinian side first go to the Security Council and then after that, maybe apply to membership in the various councils, committees, and bodies at the UN.”
The Palestinians have said that if the U.S. uses its veto, they will go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) where they could push for Israeli officials to be charged with war crimes. But Jaqaman told The Media Line that Abbas would only do that if the current political stalemate continued.
“The Palestinian side has not shown the needed political will in the past to go through with what they declare,” Jaqaman told The Media Line. “They have used the question of going to the United Nations to some degree at least as a tactical move, rather than a strategic aim,” he said.
The Abbas plan, which sets a three-year time limit for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, has received the full backing of the Arab States.
Abu Yousef confirmed to The Media Line that Arab states had informed the PA Chairman that they were asked by Kerry to pressure Abbas not to turn to the UN, but he would not mention specific countries.
Palestinians view the United Kingdom’s recent 274-12 symbolic vote to recognize Palestine as a welcome sign of change.
“The landslide vote in the UK is an obvious indication of the UK’s refusal of Israel’s policies of maintaining the status quo of colonizing Palestine and destroying the chance of the two state solution,” PLO Communications Advisor Ashraf B. Khatib told The Media Line.
At the UN Security Council, “countries will have the choice to be either on the wrong or on the right side of history,” he said.
The U.S. Congress has already threatened to cut funding should the PA pursue a vote in the UN, and Israel is also expected to retaliate. Both courses of action will backfire, warns analyst George Jaqaman.
“This will be the beginning of a conflict that will escalate, and this is what the Americans have in mind to stop this kind of escalation with some sort of a political process to fill the present political vacuum,” Jaqaman said.
Meanwhile, former Palestinian spokesperson Nour Odeh says the U.S. and Europe have not come up with a solution that works and know that trying old and failed formulas will not work.
“[By going to the UN Security Council] the Palestinians are offering them a graceful way to save face and credibility. Either they go for a way to solve this problem once and for all or they should come out and admit failure,” she said.