Unlike last time Israel faced a hostile resolution at the United Nations Security Council, in December 2014, this time there is virtually no chance that it will fail to garner the required majority.
That means that the key to fending off the latest Palestinian attempt to get Israel condemned at the UN’s most important body lies with US President Barack Obama.
He will be in the awkward position of having to either veto a resolution despite agreeing with its content, or to abstain or support it, thus further alienating America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East and allowing political opponents at home to portray his party as anti-Israel.
The plan to bring another anti-settlement resolution to the Security Council is thus slated to become a veritable litmus test of US-Israel relations, nearly half a year before America elects a new president.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to use his trip later this month to the UN in New York — where is slated to attend a signing ceremony for the historic climate agreement reached in Paris in December — to launch yet another attempt to get the UN to condemn Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“The Security Council is a very important subject because it has now become urgent due to settlement activities and because Israel has not stopped these activities,” Abbas told AFP on Tuesday.
A leaked draft of the proposed resolution expresses “grave concern” over dwindling prospects of a two-state solution and calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.”
The draft further urges the “intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay, an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.”
Only a US veto can stop the resolution
Since 2014, the makeup of the Security Council has changed in the Palestinians’ favor, and there is virtually no chance for Israel to stave off a resolution critical of settlements.
China, Russia, Egypt, Malaysia, Senegal, Venezuela and France are certain to support the draft. Given that the universally accepted view among the international community is that Israeli settlements are illegal, it is also safe to assume the remaining members of the council — Britain, Angola, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Ukraine and Uruguay — would support the Palestinian proposal. The US thus remains the only wildcard in the upcoming diplomatic showdown at Turtle Bay.
Nothing has changed since 2011 when it comes to the principle she described — that even if settlements are bad, unilateral moves at the UN are futile and potentially even counterproductive — but these days the administration adamantly refuses to assure Israel of another veto.
Which way will the US go?
It is difficult to gauge whether the US will once again take an isolated stance and veto a resolution. On the one hand, there are several reasons to assume that the Obama administration could abstain and allow it to pass.
Israeli officials this week refused to comment on the Palestinians’ demarche, but Netanyahu on Thursday called it a “step that will push negotiations further away,” arguing that peace can only be advanced through direct bilateral negotiations