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Palestinians seek Israeli peace deal within year: Draft resolution

Jordan submits draft resolution on a final peace deal to UN Security Council on behalf of Palestinians
The Palestinian resolution now before the UN Security Council sets the end of 2017 as the date for completing the Israeli withdrawal (AFP)

NEW YORK, United States - The Palestine Liberation Organisation, with the backing of Jordan, submitted a United Nations Security Council resolution Wednesday night that calls for a peace agreement with Israel and the full withdrawal of Israeli troops by the end of 2017.

The draft resolution states that a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be concluded in a year, and that Israeli soldiers will be phased out of the occupied territories within three years. The resolution calls for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with agreed-upon land swaps that would allow some Israeli settlers to stay put and become part of Israel. Past offers of peace have included allowing the state to keep large settlement blocs as part of its territory in exchange for the Palestinians gaining some territory that is now in Israel.

The move by the PLO sets up a diplomatic showdown with the United States and Israel, who both oppose what they say are “unilateral” moves by the Palestinians. The US is likely to veto the measure as it stands. But after the draft was submitted, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, said he was open to changes to the resolution, which could affect how the US responds.

“We will continue negotiating with all of them and with the Americans if they are ready and willing so that we perhaps can succeed in having something adopted by the Security Council to open a serious door to peace,” Mansour said, according to various news outlets.

The UN resolution will increase pressure on Israel, and comes after a string of European parliaments, including the European Union’s, voted in favour of recognising a Palestinian state. European nations are becoming increasingly assertive on the issue of Palestine, though their moves thus far are largely symbolic.

The submission of the resolution caps a feverish week of diplomacy between European countries, the US, Arab states and the Palestinians. Earlier today, AFP news agency reported that a French resolution, which reportedly called for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians but not an end date to the occupation, and the Palestinian resolution would be merged. But it seems that, for now, the Palestinians went ahead with their own version that calls for an end to the occupation.

Jordan formally submitted the resolution, since the country is a member of the UN Security Council. In addition to setting a deadline for the end of the Israeli occupation, the draft also calls for East Jerusalem to be recognised as the capital of the Palestinian state and for the rights of Palestinian refugees to be implemented in accordance with earlier UN resolutions. In the past, Palestinian negotiators had floated the idea of Israel accepting a limited number of refugees while providing compensation for the rest.  An estimated five million Palestinian refugees, driven from their homes by Zionist militias in 1948, and their descendants live across the Middle East and in the West Bank and Gaza.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the midst of an election campaign, criticised the Palestinian moves.

“We will not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable,” Netanyahu said before he flew to Rome to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the UN resolution. “In the reality in which Islamic terrorism is reaching out to all corners of the globe, we will rebuff any attempt that would put this terrorism inside our home, inside the State of Israel.”

Israeli leaders have said that they expect the US to veto any UN resolution on a Palestinian state. In 2011, the US vetoed a resolution that labeled Israeli settlements as “illegal”.

The Palestinian push at the UN is the latest step in what some have labeled a strategy of “internationalising” the conflict in order to pressure Israel to end its 47-year occupation. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a member of Fatah, is also likely calculating that the submission to the UN resolution will bolster his standing among Palestinians, which has been weakened after the Israeli war in Gaza boosted rival Islamist group Hamas. Abbas has also been faced with calls to end security coordination between Palestinian and Israeli forces after the Palestinians accused Israeli troops of killing Ziad Abu Ein, a senior official.

Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to Abbas and a critic of the Palestinian Authority, criticised Abbas’ UN strategy.

“Year after year after year, they’re just simply looking for new measures. But these new measures aren’t designed in any way to confront Israel,” Buttu told Middle East Eye in a phone interview. “They’re simply designed to buy the PA more and more and more time.” She said that a more effective strategy would be backing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and joining the International Criminal Court, which could investigate Israeli violations of human rights and the building of settlements, which violates the Geneva Convention.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, a Palestinian official said that Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, told Kerry that if the US vetoes the resolution, the Palestinians would go to the International Criminal Court. Palestinian officials have threatened to join the court in the past, but have not followed through.