The United States is creating momentum for the French to forestall, or altogether abandon, presenting a resolution to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on behalf of the Palestinians. France has been informed of an American alternative offer to the Palestinian pursuit of a draft resolution to negotiate an end Israel’s occupation of territories gained in June 1967, a French diplomatic source has told me.
Palestinian sources said they have not received any proposal from the U.S. to counter their moves at the UN. “If you have something you share it,” said a senior Palestinian official close to the arrangements. “I think what the Americans are trying to do is to delay any initiative until Israeli elections take place.”
Israel will hold elections on March 17, 2015. Additionally, the seats of the four temporary members of the UN Security Council will rotate in January, casting a new set of political dimensions if the draft resolution is held until after the new year.
While the contents of the U.S. alternative to a UNSC resolution were not revealed to me, France sees an American proposal as a railroad tactic, pressuring France to withdraw its draft resolution. France wants to act as an Israeli-Palestinian mediator. And yet France is “confused” by Palestinian actions, said the French diplomat who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity.
“France has no idea what the Palestinian are doing,” the French diplomat said. He noted that despite Palestinian announcements that it had incorporated elements of the French draft resolution, France has not actually seen the Palestinians’ final text as of yesterday afternoon Jerusalem time.
Palestinian sources dispute this account. They said that they are continuing their actions at the UNSC by way of Jordan and are not looking to France to submit a resolution on their behalf.
However, that decision too is not up to the Palestinians. Only Security Council members can table draft resolutions. Jordanian officials said Wednesday that like the French, they were not presented with a copy of the resolution.
It is widely understood that a French version of the resolution would stand a better chance of passing the Security Council, inasmuch as the U.S. would be less likely to veto a resolution from a member of the Security Council.
Clashes between allied partners and member states are rare in the Security Council once a resolution has been submitted. The French seek to have all issues of contention solved before a resolution is read at the UN. The French diplomat referenced the row between his country and the U.S. over a Security Council resolution in regard to a then impending U.S. invasion of Iraq. “It was a major diplomatic crisis,” he said. France doesn’t want a blowup over the Palestinian initiative.
Initially two drafts of the Security Council resolution circulated, one French in consultation with European partners and one Jordanian-Palestinian with support from the Arab League. The principal differences between the drafts were that the Palestinians wanted to include language on ending Israel’s occupation within a two-year period, while the French wanted to re-establish negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Both entail previous international accords such as United Nations resolution 242 and 181, a removal of Israeli forces from territories occupied in June 1967, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees based on return and compensation, respectively.
France included a reference to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. But Palestinians have said this as a red line. “The draft that we have doesn’t include any reference to a Jewish state,” said the senior Palestinian official. The current “merged” draft incorporates France’s desire to create new parameters for peace talks, rather than a deadline of withdrawing Israeli forces by the close of 2016.
Other terms, such as an immediate settlement freeze and refraining from “any illegal activities,” were carried over into the new text, said the Palestinian official.
“I reaffirmed France’s commitment to an initiative in the UN Security Council encompassing parameters as well as a timetable for these negotiations,” said France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Tuesday after meeting with Palestinian and Israeli officials earlier the same day, and American, British and German officials the day before. “I also mentioned the need to renew the framework of these discussions in order to promote the involvement of all international partners willing to contribute to this settlement. France is convinced that it is high time to act for peace in a concrete manner.”
France hopes the Palestinians will accept their version in full. The U.S. has indicated it would not veto such a resolution so long as it does not contain any unilateral actions against Israel.
“As the Secretary said very publicly, we haven’t made a decision, and it’s based on the context and the text that would be proposed,” said State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki on Wednesday. “It depends on what the details are on what we’ll do.”