Palestinians seek UN resolution to end Israeli occupation

The Palestinians are to push on Wednesday with a draft UN resolution demanding an end to Israeli occupation despite warnings the United States is ready to veto the measure.
An Arab-backed text setting November 2016 as the deadline for an Israeli withdrawal was to be formally submitted to the UN Security Council. The 15-member council will vote at a later date.

“We will submit our project to the UN Security Council tomorrow,” Nimr Hammad, an adviser to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, told AFP on Tuesday.

The decision follows the latest series of meetings between US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian negotiators and European ministers.

Kerry suggested a UN resolution could play into the hands of Israeli hardliners as the country heads toward elections in March.

“Many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this,” he insisted. “But we’re also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region.”

The Palestinians began circulating a draft at the end of September, after President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that it was time to fast-track Palestinian statehood.

The text, put forward by the Arab group, calls for “the full withdrawal of Israel, the occupying power, from all of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.

This should be completed “as rapidly as possible and to be fully completed within a specified timeframe, not to exceed November 2016.”

It asks the world body to respect “the independence and sovereignty of the state of Palestine and the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people.”

Diplomats say the text stands no chance of approval, but the Palestinians want to jolt the Security Council into action to address the worsening Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

France stepped into the fray last month and, with Britain and Germany, began discussing options for a separate resolution setting a timeframe for negotiations on a final settlement.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of Abbas’s inner circle, said France had “accommodated” the Palestinians and delegates were working on a merged text.

The big question mark remains the United States, which is reluctant to back any UN resolution that would anger close ally Israel.

“If we do not succeed, the Palestinian people are not going to go away. The Palestinian question is not going to evaporate,” said Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour earlier this week.

“We will be entering into a new stage.”

In the latest sign of the mounting tension, Mansour warned of more confrontation on the ground and said the Palestinians were ready to take action at the General Assembly and at the International Criminal Court to gain recognition and justice.

“We are better equipped today to defend our cause in the international arena than before,” said Mansour.

Shtayyeh said the United States wanted any draft resolution to be put off until after an Israeli general election in March.

He said the Palestinians made clear to Kerry they were sick of two-way negotiations with Israel that make no progress.

The US administration opposes moves to bind negotiators’ hands through a UN resolution — particularly any attempt to set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.

Diplomatic negotiations, however, have been complicated by European moves toward recognition of a Palestinian state in several parliaments over the past week.

There is a growing impatience in Europe over the failure to make progress in peace talks, amid fears the Middle East risks spiralling into even greater chaos.

The long-held goal of a two-state solution that the US administration has supported is being hindered by Israeli settlements across Palestinian territories.

A US veto also risks running contrary to Washington’s avowed aim of a Palestinian state and would anger key Arab allies, including partners in the US-led coalition against Islamic State militants.