The United Nations Security Council was called into a special session on December 30, 2014 at the behest of the Palestinian Authority and its Arab Group supporters. The intent was for the Security Council to approve a resolution, submitted by the non-permanent Council member Jordan, imposing deadlines for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on Palestinian terms, including full Israeli withdrawal from all “occupied” territories within three years. The Palestinians thought they had the necessary nine-vote majority to pass the resolution, which would have forced the United States to use its veto power to defeat it. As it turned out, the Palestinians missed their target by one vote. The Security Council rejected the Palestinian bid to end-run direct negotiations with Israel by a vote of 8 members in favor of passage, 2 against and 5 abstentions.
The 8 countries voting in favor of the resolution were the Permanent Members France, China, and Russia, and the non-permanent members Jordan, Argentina, Chad, Chile, and Luxembourg. The United States and Australia voted against the resolution. The 5 abstaining countries were Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, South Korea and Rwanda.
France’s UN Ambassador Francois Delatorre explained France’s shameful yes vote as motivated by “the urgent need to act, by the profound necessity to change our methods, by the responsibility incumbent upon each member of the Security Council” France acceded to the Palestinians’ formula for a two-state solution, to be established through UN’s mechanisms and timetables rather than good faith direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict.
The French ambassador declared that only the Security Council can provide the “indisputable foundation in order for the negotiations to be credible. It is up to us to determine internationally recognized parameters to resolve the conflict, and negotiations that lead to the satisfaction of the various claims.” To that end, France went along with the deadline imposed by the draft resolution for completion of all negotiations and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the “occupied” territories. It gave up on its own more temperate compromise draft.
The defeated draft Palestinian resolution included the following language, which attempted to set the parameters for final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the Palestinians’ terms:
1. Affirms the urgent need to attain, no later than 12 months after the adoption of this resolution, a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation since 1967 and fulfils the vision of two independent, democratic and prosperous states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within mutually and internationally recognized borders;
2. Decides that the negotiated solution will be based on the following parameters:
• borders based on 4 June 1967 lines with mutually agreed, limited, equivalent land swaps;
• security arrangements, including through a third-party presence, that guarantee and respect the sovereignty of a State of Palestine, including through a full and phased withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces, which will end the occupation that began in 1967 over an agreed transition period in a reasonable timeframe, not to exceed the end of 2017, and that ensure the security of both Israel and Palestine through effective border security and by preventing the resurgence of terrorism and effectively addressing security threats, including emerging and vital threats in the region;
• a just and agreed solution to the Palestine refugee question on the basis of Arab Peace Initiative, international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, including resolution 194 (III);
• a just resolution of the status of Jerusalem as the capital of the two States which fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both parties and protects freedom of worship;
• the just settlement of all other outstanding issues, including water and prisoners;
The key elements that the Palestinians were seeking to enshrine by the clever wording in their draft resolution were (1) internationally recognized borders between an independent state of Palestine and Israel based essentially on the June 4, 1967 lines, (2) Security Council affirmation of the Palestinians’ assertion of their refugees’ so-called right of return to their so-called homes within pre-June 1967 Israeli borders; and (3) international recognition of the Palestinians’ claim to East Jerusalem (including the Old City with its holy sites) as their capital.
The draft resolution also called for, without any concrete conditions to protect the security of Israeli citizens, “a sustainable solution to the situation in the Gaza Strip, including sustained and regular opening of its border crossings for normal flow of persons and goods.” Despite Israel’s unilateral complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas’s governance of Gaza since 2007, using it as a launching pad for rockets aimed at Israeli population centers, the draft resolution sought to perpetuate the fiction that Gaza still remained part of the “occupied” Palestinian territory.
In an effort to make the draft resolution more palatable to wavering members of the Security Council, the drafters made reference to the need for ensuring “the security of both Israel and Palestine” and “preventing the resurgence of terrorism.” However, the drafters do not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, but rather noble “resistance fighters.”
Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and whose charter calls for the killing of Jews anywhere they can be found, was foiled by Israeli security forces late last year before it was able to carry out its plot to conduct widespread terrorist attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem. This was but another in a long line of Hamas-initiated terrorist plots and actions to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. Yet, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party associates have chosen to embrace Hamas as a partner in a so-called “unity” Palestinian government. That plan apparently fell apart last month when Hamas announced that the “unity” government had ended, at least for the time being.
Now that the Palestinians failed to get their draft resolution passed and the United States did not even have to exercise its veto power to ensure defeat of the resolution, where will they go from here?
The Palestinians are virtually certain to try again this year to get their draft resolution passed by the Security Council. They will probably succeed this time in getting the nine necessary votes, which would then require the U.S. to exercise its veto and risk wide-spread condemnation in the so-called “international community.” Malaysia is replacing South Korea, which abstained, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the next two years. Malaysia is expected to vote yes in support of the Palestinian initiative.
In addition, Abbas moved ahead to sign the documents necessary to allow the so-called Palestinian state to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). Abbas intends to use the ICC to prosecute Israeli leaders for committing alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. While no doubt causing potential trouble for Israel and subjecting its leaders to possible arrest if the ICC chooses to go forward with prosecution and issues arrest warrants, Abbas’s move could backfire. If he claims to be representing a single unified Palestinian state, irrespective of the current limbo status of the reconciliation agreement with Hamas, Abbas cannot simply disavow Hamas’s own attacks against Israeli civilians. His Palestinian Authority may be forced to deal with a case brought against Palestinian leaders for engaging in or supporting the commitment of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists.
Moreover, there could well be severe economic repercussions that the Palestinians will have brought upon themselves by going ahead and joining the ICC. Israel is virtually certain to impose severe economic sanctions and other measures that will hurt the Palestinian economy. Although Israel is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections on March 17, it is unlikely that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would face much political backlash in taking a tough stance in response to Abbas’s ICC gambit.
The U.S. State Department has already condemned Abbas’s decision. And, especially with both the Senate and the House of Representatives under Republican control, a Congressional initiative to cut off funding to the Palestinians on account of their decision to join the ICC is a virtual certainty. Such legislation could well pass with enough votes to override a veto by President Obama if he were so foolish to do so.
All of these diplomatic maneuvers may be overshadowed this year by renewed widespread outbreaks of violence or moves by Hamas to force Abbas and his more secular Fatah party out of power and replace them with jihadists who reject even the pretense of any peace with Israel. The Israeli elections could also affect the course of events in the region. No doubt, with the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions also still very much alive, 2015 will be a very challenging year for the Jewish state.
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