Palestinians to press ahead with UN resolution

The Palestinians will press ahead Wednesday with a draft resolution at the UN Security Council despite warnings the United States is likely to back its Israeli ally by vetoing the measure.

United Nations: The Palestinians will press ahead Wednesday with a draft resolution at the UN Security Council despite warnings the United States is likely to back its Israeli ally by vetoing the measure.

Frustrated by years of failed peace talks, the Palestinians are making a major diplomatic push for international pressure on Israel.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki said the draft would be submitted to the Security Council after the Palestinians agreed with France on a merged text.

An Arab-backed draft of the text had previously set a deadline of two years for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, but France has pushed for a softer resolution that would instead set a timeframe for negotiations on a final settlement.

Malki did not give details on the merged text, except to say that France had scrapped mention of the thorny issue of the Palestinians recognising Israel as a Jewish state.

"The draft that will be presented today (Wednesday) is the French draft based on Palestinian observations and decisions," Malki told AFP.

"It will be presented to the Security Council as a blueprint, and could be put to a vote 24 hours after that," he added.

The Palestinians began circulating a draft at the end of September, after president Mahmud Abbas told the UN General Assembly that it was time to fast-track Palestinian statehood.

The text called for the "full withdrawal of Israel... from all of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967," including the West Bank and east Jerusalem, by November 2016.The text as it stood had no chance of approval, especially as Washington has wielded its veto in the 15-member council repeatedly in the past in support of Israel.

The US administration opposes moves to bind negotiators` hands through a UN resolution -- particularly any attempt to set a deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank.

But the threat of the draft seems to have been enough to jolt the international community into action. 

France stepped into the fray last month and, with Britain and Germany, began discussing options for a separate resolution.

Keen to head off a diplomatic crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry held a flurry of meetings this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian negotiators and European ministers.

Kerry suggested a UN resolution could play into the hands of Israeli hardliners as the country heads toward elections in March.

"Many of us share a deep sense of urgency about this," he said. "But we`re also very mindful that we have to carefully calibrate any steps that are taken for this difficult moment in the region."

Asked what kind of resolution Washington might be able to support at the UN, Kerry said Monday that the US administration has "made no determinations... about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that."

The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, shepherded by Kerry, collapsed in April amid mutual recriminations.This summer`s 50-day war in Gaza followed and tensions have boiled over in the West Bank and east Jerusalem with a series of deadly "lone wolf" attacks on Israelis and frequent clashes between security forces and stone-throwing Palestinians. 

Experts say Abbas`s Palestinian Authority is under increasing public pressure to take action, and with efforts at peace talks exhausted has turned to the Security Council.

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, warned this week that the international community could not simply ignore the Palestinian question.

"If we do not succeed, the Palestinian people are not going to go away. The Palestinian question is not going to evaporate," he said.

"We will be entering into a new stage."

Mansour warned of more confrontation on the ground and said the Palestinians were ready to take action at the General Assembly and at the International Criminal Court.

"We are better equipped today to defend our cause in the international arena than before," Mansour said.

Frustration with the stalled peace process has also grown in Europe, where lawmakers in Britain, France and Spain have all called in recent weeks for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Even Washington has expressed growing frustration with Israeli policies, including the continued expansion of settlements across Palestinian territories.

Another US veto also risks angering key Arab allies, including partners in the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria and Iraq.