The US said Thursday it would not back a UN Security Council resolution calling for Israel to sign a peace deal with Palestinian authorities within a year and end the occupation of Palestinian territories by 2017.
"It is not something we would support," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.
After weeks of negotiations and several hours-long meetings between Arab diplomats Wednesday, Palestine's Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, announced that Jordan, as the Arab representative on the council, would put the resolution "in blue" — meaning it could come up for a vote in as little as 24 hours.
But Mansour did not say when a vote would take place, and indicated he was open to further talks with the US and members of the Council.
'They are desperate. The Palestinian Authority leadership has nothing in its pockets besides this kind of thing'
"We will continue negotiating with all of them, and the Americans if they are ready and willing, so that perhaps we can succeed in having something adopted by the Security Council," Mansour said to reporters.
The American announcement came as little surprise. For decades, the US has reliably vetoed any resolution seen as impinging on Israel's national interests.
An earlier version of the text that began making rounds in the Council in late September was shot down — prior to introduction — by the US, which viewed it as overly ambitious. The new draft, with a longer time frame than originally proposed, was not improvement enough for the Americans.
Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz had already predicted the US response, saying Sunday: "I assume an anti-Israeli proposal will draw a US veto. That's how it's always been and that's what we hope will happen."
The Jordanian text presented Wednesday gives diplomats 12 months to reach a conclusive and "comprehensive peaceful solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation since 1967."
The negotiated solution, it said, would rely on Israel withdrawing from occupied territory by the end of 2017. Also involved would be a "third party presence" — possibly the UN — meant to safeguard the sovereignty of the Palestinian state.
Israeli politicians were quick to impugn the move, which sidestepped European efforts to draft a more palatable resolution — also a weaker one in the eyes of the Palestinians.
"We will never accept unilateral diktats," Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday in a statement.
Steinitz called the resolution "an act of war" and threatened to "dismantle" the Palestinian Authority. In a Facebook post, Israeli Housing Minister Uri Ariel said Israel should respond by stepping up settlement construction in the West Bank — action long since considered illegal by the UN and international community.
Palestinian leadership has made clear that action at the UN — even in the face of a guaranteed American veto — was one of the only options remaining.
"They are desperate. The Palestinian Authority leadership has nothing in its pockets besides this kind of thing," Rashid Khalidi, Professor of Modern Arabic Studies and History at Columbia University and member of Palestinian peace talk delegations in the early 1990s, told VICE News. "They are basically reduced to this diplomatic effort, which may mean they will stick to it."
The Palestinian push comes amid growing domestic pressure on president Mahmoud Abbas to respond after this summer's conflict in Gaza left more than 2,100 Palestinians dead. The Gaza incursions were followed by heightened tensions and attacks on Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority, which controls only the West Bank, was also buoyed by greater support among European countries, several of which have recently voted to recognize Palestine as a state. On Wednesday, the European Parliament approved a symbolic acceptance of the Palestinian state.
With the US quick to dismiss the resolution, pressure builds on European countries, including France, which at the UN was attempting to reach a common text. Despite being caught off guard by yesterday's announcement, France is still trying to bridge the gulf in the Council, said one Council diplomat there who spoke with VICE News.
Khalidi says introducing the resolution without having reached a prior agreement with Israel — which the US would prefer — may play well with audiences both in Palestine and Jordan. But it's hard to see another diplomatic solution Palestinian leadership can set forth that Israel would accept, he added.
"If the Palestinians actually engage in any kind of action, it's violence and terrorism, and if they engage in diplomacy its considered warfare," Khalidi said. "So basically they are being told to lie down and take it."
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