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UN Security Council Negotiating Controversial Israel-Palestine Resolution

The proposal would demand Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territory by 2016 and retreat to borders as they existed prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.
December 3, 2014, 2:56am
Photo via Flickr

Negotiations are underway at the United Nations over a proposed Security Council resolution that would demand Israel end its occupation of Palestinian territory by 2016 and retreat to borders as they existed prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

At a weekend meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, leaders approved a text to be introduced by Jordan, which is currently a member of the Security Council. Palestinian officials are eager to bring a resolution before the international body in the coming weeks.

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"There is a growing positive dynamic in the Security Council to adopt a resolution that could lead to a meaningful process to end Israeli occupation that started in 1967," Riyad Mansour, Palestine's Ambassador to the UN, told VICE News.

Supporters on the Council, he said, recognize the resolution must accomplish its goals "in a reasonable period of time as an investment in peace and saving the two-state solution."

But political wrangling and the ever-present threat of a US veto of any resolutions seen as unfriendly to Israel may push open debate in the Council into January — or off the agenda completely.

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Western diplomats on the Council view the Arab resolution as too forceful, and France, with support from Britain and Germany, has worked to iron out a more politically palatable version.

Palestinian diplomats first circulated a draft of a similar resolution at the end of September. That move was foiled at the time by skepticism from the US and others on the Council.

Diplomatic sources close to and on the Council told VICE News that possible holdups include questions over language on Israel's alleged past transgressions, land swaps, the relocation of refugees, and the border itself. The timeline for any of the resolution's mandates to take effect also remains an issue.

After years of building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — activity that the UN considers illegal — the process of decoupling land from Israeli control could potentially require complicated land swaps.

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Following Israel's deadly 50-day summer incursion into Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has pushed an increasingly hard line on the international stage. His support of settlement activity and a controversial bill defining Israel as Jewish state have only worsened US-Israel relations, which were already at a nadir.

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In October, Netanyahu unveiled plans for 1,000 additional housing units in East Jerusalem, situated on the other side of the "green line" that delineates Israel's territory prior to 1967 — area that would be at the heart of an independent Palestinian state. The US has condemned the building of such settlements.

Diplomats negotiating at the UN paused Tuesday upon hearing the news that Netanyahu booted two members of his inner cabinet, and announced plans to dissolve parliament and hold early elections.

Polls taken Tuesday show Israeli voters are likely to reelect Netanyahu's conservative Likud party to a leadership position.

Palestinian officials say that between unabated settlement construction in the West Bank and the collapse of US-backed peace talks in April, there is little that could move them to give up on the resolution — including Israeli political chaos.

"There is no longer a partner for us in Israel, and there is nothing for us [to do] but to internationalize the issue," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, speaking to Arab leaders in Cairo.

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Observers say that, while the resolution may be ultimately ill-fated, there are precious few options for the Palestinians.

"Either we are talking about two sovereign states, or we are talking about formalizing an apartheid Bantustan," Daniel Levy, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told VICE News. "As long as Israel feels there is no cost to having this extremist settler policy, Israelis see change as painful domestically, and it's easier to do nothing,"

The talks in New York come as politicians in several Europeans countries, including Spain and Sweden, have voted — over Israeli objections — to recognize Palestine as a state.

On Tuesday, France's parliament passed a resolution that recognizes Palestine. The vote was non-binding, but French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said official government recognition is on the table.

"If this final effort to reach a negotiated solution fails, then France will have to do what it takes by recognizing without delay the Palestinian state," Fabius said Friday at the National Assembly.

The UK has voted to recognize Palestine as a state. Read more here.

The added European pressure has raised suggestions that the US may be considering abstaining from a vote on the Security Council resolution. The move, which would allow passage, would be paramount to a sea change in US foreign policy — and open President Barack Obama to a political shellacking from domestic critics.

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Diplomatic sources tell VICE News that until France, the Jordanians, and Palestinians have worked out a unified text, it is too soon to broach the question of US abstention.

In 2011, the US vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank — even as it said it didn't support them.

"What Fabius may have been hinting at is basically if the UN route gets stuck, then France could go ahead and in the short term recognize Palestine," Levy said.

"The big question is if the US would let it pass," Levy added. "To a degree, that is an open question now."

Follow Samuel Oakford on Twitter: @samueloakford

Photo via Flickr