Israel and the Palestinians are girding for a showdown at the United Nations this week over a resolution that would recognize a Palestinian state and demand an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in less than two years.
The Palestinian leadership, frustrated after two decades of peace talks that have failed to bring statehood, announced that it will submit the resolution to the Security Council on Wednesday.
It is likely doomed from the start.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat allowed on Monday that the measure, which sets a November 2016 deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from land sought for a Palestinian state, does not yet have the support of a majority of Security Council members. And even if the Palestinians did win the vote, the measure would probably be vetoed by the United States, one of five permanent members with veto power.
Israelis are relying again on the United States to act as a buffer at the United Nations.
“Let it be clear: They won’t get what they want,” former justice minister and chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni told the Jerusalem Post. “The Palestinian proposal won’t be accepted. The world will reject this text. And, if necessary, the U.S. will use its veto power.”
Although the United States has vetoed dozens of resolutions deemed anti-Israel in the past, this one comes at a particularly difficult time. Several Arab states that are sympathetic to the Palestinian position are part of the coalition battling the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and Washington is relying on their cooperation to keep the coalition from being exclusively Western.
Trying to avert a confrontation over the resolution, Secretary of State John F. Kerry summoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a three-hour meeting in Rome on Monday.
Kerry made no statement after the meeting, instead leaving for Paris to meet with the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and the European Union. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to be in London to talk with Erekat and the head of the Arab League, which has proposed its own peace initiative.
Before heading back to Israel, Netanyahu thanked Kerry but declined to say whether Kerry had promised that the United States would use its veto.
“I very much appreciate the secretary of state’s efforts to prevent a deterioration in the region,” Netanyahu said. “I said that the attempts of the Palestinians and of several European countries to force conditions on Israel will only lead to a deterioration in the regional situation and will endanger Israel. Therefore, we will strongly oppose this.”
The Palestinian resolution calls on Israel to withdraw to lines from before the 1967 war, a demarcation that would place tens of thousands of Israeli settlers over the line, even if the two sides agreed to swap land. In an indication of how facts on the ground have fueled Palestinian frustrations, newly released Israeli figures show the settler population in the West Bank has more than doubled in the 21 years since Israel and the Palestinians started their negotiations, rising to more than 350,000 settlers.
The latest round of peace talks, brokered by Kerry, collapsed in April. Both the United States and Israel say Palestinian statehood cannot be declared unilaterally or forced through U.N. resolutions but must be negotiated with Israel, whose troops still patrol most of the West Bank. Parliaments in several European nations recently endorsed Palestinian statehood, though the votes are mostly symbolic.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, called the resolution a “last door” to a peaceful compromise on the conflict.
“It’s becoming clear, two options are available to us,” he said. “One is to open the door for peace by adopting a resolution in the Security Council. The other option is devastating. A religious war, with extremists on both sides.”
Gilead Sher, chief of staff to Ehud Barak when Barak was Israel’s prime minister, and now co-chair of Blue White Future, a group advocating a two-state solution, said the resolution would not help bring both sides closer to a lasting solution, or even back to the negotiating table.
“The United States should get its act together and provide the parties with a ladder to get down from the height of that conflicting, diplomatic struggle that is currently underway,” he said.
Booth reported from Jerusalem. Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this report.