(Foreign Policy) — The U.S. informed Arab governments Friday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal.
But the Palestinian’s rejected the American offer following a meeting late Wednesdy of Arab representativs and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution Friday, according officials familar with the issue. The decision to reject the American offer raised the prospects that the Obama adminstration may cast its first ever veto in the U.N. Security Council.
Still, the U.S. offer signaled a renewed willingness to seek a way out of the current impasse, even if it requires breaking with its key ally and joining others in the council in sending a strong message to Israel to stop its construction of new settlements. The Palestinian delegation, along with the council’s Arab member Lebanon, have asked the council’s president this evening to schedule a meeting on Friday. But it remained unclear whether the Palestinian move today is simply a negotiating tactic aimed at extracting a better deal from the United States.
Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, outlined the new U.S. offer in a closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Arab Group, a bloc of Arab countries from North Africa and the Middle East. In exchange for scuttling the Palestinian resolution, the United States would support the council statement, consider supporting a U.N. Security Council visit to the Middle East, the first since 1979, and commit to supporting strong language criticizing Israel’s settlement policies in a future statement by the Middle East Quartet.
The U.S.-backed draft statement — which was first reported by Al Hurra — was obtained by Turtle Bay. In it, the Security Council “expresses its strong opposition to any unilateral actions by any party, which cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community, and reaffirms, that it does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, which is a serious obstacle to the peace process.” The statement also condemns “all forms of violence, including rocket fire from Gaza, and stresses the need for calm and security for both peoples.”
U.S. officials were not available for comment, but two Security Council diplomats confirmed the proposal. The Arab Group was scheduled to meet this afternoon to formulate a formal response to the American offer. Council diplomats said that the discussions were fluid and that there was still the possibility that the U.S. draft would be subject to further negotiations. They said it was also not yet certain that the U.S. offer would satisfy the Arab Group, and that the U.S. may be forced to veto the Palestinian resolution.