The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday rejected a resolution that would have called for Israelis and Palestinians to strike a peace deal within a year and for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders within three years — a blow to Palestinians seeking to increase pressure on the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
The resolution fell one vote short of the nine necessary for passage, sparing the Obama administration, which opposed the measure, the need to wield its veto power on the council.
After the vote, Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the administration’s opposition to the resolution stemmed from its belief that peace will come through a negotiated agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, not through a “staged confrontation.”
The failed resolution called for a peace deal with Israel within 12 months, and an end to Israeli occupation by late 2017. It said a final deal should be based on borders that existed before the 1967 war when Israel won control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. It declared East Jerusalem would be the capital of a Palestinian state, a more hard-line stance than an earlier version that described Jerusalem as a shared capital. It also demanded an end to Israeli settlement building.
Over the previous two days, Secretary of State John F. Kerry made a flurry of calls to 13 foreign ministers and leaders to express his concern that a resolution would only deepen the conflict, officials said. Still, the resolution won the backing of several U.S. allies including France and Jordan, which agreed to introduce the measure at the council after it was endorsed by 22 Arab nations.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized both Israel and the United States after the vote.
“Although the majority of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution, once again, certain countries continue to ensure impunity to the Israeli occupation and its severe international law violations by not voting in favor of the resolution,” he said. “We call upon the international community to assume its responsibility.”
Erekat said Palestinian leaders would meet Wednesday night to decide on their next steps.
Five of the 15 countries on the Security Council abstained from the Tuesday vote, including Britain. Australia was the only country that joined the United States in voting against it.
Most of the ambassadors said they thought time was running out for a settlement that would have two countries, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
China’s ambassador, Liu Jieyi, said the conflict was stalemated, and called for the Security Council to assume responsibility for forging a peace deal. Russia’s envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, said the conflict was being used by extremists to recruit converts by convincing them a political solution is fruitless.
Israeli officials said passage of the resolution would have exacerbated the situation in the region. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters before the vote that Israel considered the resolution a unilateral step by the Palestinians.
“I believe this is a futile step and, apart from reducing the chances of reaching a comprehensive peace agreement, this will achieve nothing,” he said.
It remained unclear why the Palestinians wanted to have a vote before Thursday, when the council’s rotating membership changes to include at least two countries sympathetic to Palestinian statehood.
Lieberman said he believed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insisted on it for political reasons, to keep his career alive and to stymie his rival political party, Hamas, which opposed the resolution as not going far enough.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke called the measure “the wrong resolution at the wrong time,” making an eventual two-state solution and peace more elusive.
“We would also add that every month that goes by without constructive engagement between the parties just increases polarization and allows more space for destabilizing efforts,” he said.
Eglash reported from Jerusalem.