U.S. Mulls Support for Palestinian Statehood at UN
Washington is reviewing its position on a United Nations Security Council resolution that would outline the terms of Palestinian statehood, according to senior U.S. officials.
A senior official, in comments made to the New York Times, suggested that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments this week – in which he ruled out a two-state solution under his rule ahead of his election win – could force U.S. president Barack Obama’s administration to change course.
“The premise of our position internationally has been to support direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” the official said.
“We are now in a reality where the Israeli government no longer supports direct negotiations. Therefore we clearly have to factor that into our decisions going forward.”
However, Netanyahu appeared to backtrack on his comments in a TV interview Thursday, refuting that he had shifted his position on the two-state solution, telling MSNBC: “I haven’t changed my policy.”
“I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change,” he added.
Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have reached a low point not previously seen in U.S.-Israeli relations. Obama is yet to congratulate Netanyahu on his election win, leaving it to his secretary of state John Kerry to do so, and Kerry will also take over dealings with Israel unless Obama sees fit to intervene.
“The president is a pretty pragmatic person and if he felt it would be useful, he will certainly engage,” the official added. “But he’s not going to waste his time.”
On the day he secured his fourth term, Netanyahu urged his Jewish voters to utilise their ballot papers because “the right-wing’s rule is in danger” as “the Arabs are voting in droves”. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday that the administration was “deeply concerned by the use of divisive rhetoric… that sought to marginalize Arab Israeli citizens” as it “undermines the values and democratic ideals” that bind the two countries together.
In an infamous 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University, Netanyahu voiced his support for a demilitarised Palestinian state adjacent to the state of Israel but has since said that the idea is now “simply irrelevant”.
In reaction to Netanyahu’s two-state reversal, his anti-Arab campaigning and his re-election, the Palestinians are set to press ahead with an international strategy to achieve recognition of a Palestinian state in the knowledge that Netanyahu will not makes moves towards this prospect.
A senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there was no prospect of a peace process while Netanyahu is in power.
“We are very worried about this culture of hate that we are seeing in Israel. It’s very concerning because it’s showing a path,” the senior official said. “We all know what [Netanyahu] did in his last terms, and now more clearly he is telling everyone that he is not going to allow a Palestinian state and he is going to expand settlements, then there is no chance there is going to be a peace process.”
A number of European parliaments have symbolically voted to recognise a Palestinian state and Sweden has officially recognised it. The Palestinians are also set to become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1 April and Dr Gershon Baskin, who negotiated a secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in 2011, believes that such unilateral measures will only continue after Netanyahu’s statements.
“There is no peace process and there is no reason to think that there will even be one,” he says. “The Palestinians are now completely convinced that their international strategy is the only way to move forward right now.”
“They will continue to do that, which means gaining bilateral recognition from additional states, and going through parliaments in Europe and other parts of the world, the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court.”
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, in a draft proposal for a Palestinian state submitted to the UN last year, asserted that a Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 borders and consist of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as its capital.
The draft resolution called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territories and urged “both parties to abstain from any unilateral and illegal actions, including settlement activities, that could undermine the viability of a two-state solution”.