Palestinians to ask U.N. Security Council to end Israeli occupation

The Palestinians are to present a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council Wednesday that would set a two-year deadline for Israel to end its occupation, an official said.

“The Palestinian leadership took a decision to go to the Security Council next Wednesday to vote on their project to end the occupation,” senior Palestine Liberation Organisation member Wassel Abu Yussef told AFP Sunday after a meeting in Ramallah.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment ahead of Monday’s meeting in Rome between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry arrived in Italy Sunday amid a European-led drive to push moves toward Palestinian statehood, with U.S. officials saying he sought to learn more about the European position.

After Netanyahu called snap elections for March, some Europeans have pointed to a narrow window of opportunity to push a Palestinian resolution at the Security Council.

In the past the United States has consistently used its U.N. veto power to block moves it sees as anti-Israel, but U.S. officials said they drew a distinction between a unilateral step, and an effort to draw up a multilateral resolution at the U.N. Security Council, which would have the backing of many nations.

Kerry will fly to London Tuesday to meet chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and Arab League chief Nabil Elarabi.

Jordan last month circulated a draft Palestinian text setting November 2016 as a deadline for the end of the Israeli occupation.

But the text ran into opposition from the United States because it set a two-year timetable for the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the West Bank.

Netanyahu Sunday rejected all talk of withdrawing from East Jerusalem and the West Bank within two years.

Pulling out now would bring “Islamic extremists to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem,” he said.

Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Sunday.

“I believe the Middle East issue is crucial for making sure that we don’t allow the situation to degrade further,” Lavrov said as he met with Kerry in the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Rome. “I would be very much interested in discussing what we can do together to avoid this.” Since the collapse of Kerry’s peace bid in April and the 50-day war in the Gaza Strip in the summer, there has been growing international concern about rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions amid a slew of attacks.

There’s a growing U.S. recognition of European impatience with the current status quo, as several European parliaments in recent weeks have called on their governments to recognize a state of Palestine.

“Our overall goal here is to hear from and engage with other stakeholders … to hear their views and to the best of our ability work toward a common path forward,” a State Department official said.

“We all want to keep open the hope of a two-state solution and we all want to prevent … an escalation of the violence on the ground.”