Top US diplomat warns Security Council move on Palestinian statehood could strengthen Israeli hardliners
US Secretary of State John Kerry warned European Union envoys that Washington would use its veto power should the UN Security Council attempt to pass a resolution on Palestinian statehood before Israel’s elections in March, the Foreign Policy news site reported Saturday.
Speaking in a private meeting, the top US diplomat told his European counterparts that the move would lead to a rise in tensions between the US and the Palestinians. Kerry also said European governments risked increased domestic criticism over such a resolution, which might demonstrate their inability to help advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
According to the report, Kerry made the statements during an annual formal lunch with 28 EU ambassadors.
The US diplomat further warned that a resolution under current circumstances would only serve to strengthen Israeli right-wing hardliners who are opposed to the peace process.
Although the US diplomat was unclear as to what kind of resolution Washington would be prepared to support, he did say the country might be open to a UN-framed resolution in the future.
“Kerry has been very, very clear that for the United States it was not an option to discuss whatever text before the end of the Israeli election,” an unnamed EU diplomat was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying.
According to the diplomat, Kerry referred to former Israeli President Shimon Peres and Tzipi Livni, the leader of the liberal Hatnuah party, who have previously said that a Security Council move ahead of the upcoming elections would strengthen Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and right-wing hardliner Naftali Bennett’s positions.
“Such a text imposed by the international community would reinforce Benjamin Netanyahu and the hardliners in Israel,” Livni reportedly told Kerry.
UN action would therefore “give more impetus to more right-wing parties, that there was a risk this could further embolden the more right-wing forces along the Israeli political spectrum,” another diplomat told Foreign Policy.
The joint Labor-Hatnuah campaign issued a statement in response to the report, affirming their “consistent position in opposition to any Palestinian attempt to impose a new set of circumstances unilaterally on Israel.”
“Livni is proud that she has succeeded in protecting Israel’s vital interests in the Security Council,” the statement said. “It is possible to protect Israel’s security interests with the right diplomatic policies, something that could happen only if [Labor head Isaac] Herzog and Livni will form the next government.”
Earlier this week, Kerry held three days of intense talks in Europe seeking to head off a pre-Christmas crisis at the UN Security Council.
But the Palestinians told him that they would go ahead as planned, receiving a sharp warning from Kerry that the US would veto the resolution, another Palestinian official said.
In an escalating battle of wills, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat shot back that if Washington uses its veto to scupper their plans, the Palestinians would then apply to join a series of international organizations.
They include the International Criminal Court, another move opposed by Washington which fears the Palestinians will seek to try Israeli officials for alleged war crimes.
Kerry had earlier called for caution, saying nothing should be allowed to “interfere” with preparations for snap elections in Israel in March.
Asked what kind of resolution Washington might be able to support at the UN, Kerry insisted the US administration has “made no determinations… about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that.”