Washington has made it clear that it will veto the Security Council resolution should it come to a vote.
By Barak Ravid
Washington has made it clear that it will veto the resolution should it come to a vote, and has implored the Palestinian Authority and other Arab nations to withdraw the proposal, but to no avail.
The point of the resolution, foreign diplomats say, is to highlight Washington's isolated position on the Security Council, show the Palestinian population that the Palestinian Authority is taking action, and to pressure Israel and the United States on the settlement issue.
The resolution has nearly 120 co-sponsors, exclusively Arab and other non-aligned nations. UN diplomats said that the draft would probably receive 14 votes in favor and the one veto if put to an immediate vote.
The Security Council is expected to vote Friday on the draft. Should the vote take place, it will be the first time the United States has used its veto power since Barack Obama assumed the presidency.
The Obama administration has deployed heavy-hitters in an effort to get the Palestinians to withdraw the proposal. Several days ago U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a phone connversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to sway him, and the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, met Tuesday with ambassadors of several Arab countries, emphasizing that the U.S. has an interest in a compromise that will make a veto superfluous.
According to the Bloomberg news agency, diplomatic sources quoted Rice as saying that in return for the resolution being dropped, the United States would back "stronger statements on settlement construction and other issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the Security Council and the Middle East Quartet."
Rice also reportedly said that the U.S. would weigh lending its support to a Security Council trip to the Middle East proposed by Russia. But both offers apparently fell on deaf ears.
The draft uses language that the "Quartet" of Middle East peace negotiators - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - have used in previous statements on settlements.
It says that "Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."
Diplomats said Washington had attempted to persuade the Palestinian Authority not to go ahead with the resolution because the Obama administration would find it awkward to veto a resolution that it generally agreed with.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo made clear that Washington's position on the settlements issue - that it should be resolved in direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians - had not changed.
"We therefore consistently oppose attempts to bring these issues to this council, and we will continue to do so because such action moves us no closer to the goal of negotiated final settlement," DiCarlo told the council.
"Rather, we believe it would only complicate efforts to achieve that goal," she said at a council meeting on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
But some European U.S. allies believe a resolution could be useful if the Palestinians then resumed peace talks. Restating condemnation of settlements "could be something instrumental in not keeping the settlement issue at the center," Portuguese Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral told reporters.
Intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts to revive direct peace talks between Abbas abd Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed last year over settlement construction.
Israel has repeatedly called for a resumption of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians have refused to return to the negotiating table until Israel first agrees to renew its 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement building.