Frustrated by the collapse of U.S.-sponsored peace talks, Palestinians are preparing to take their case to the U.N. Security Council in the coming days with a resolution declaring ongoing Jewish settlement in the West Bank a major obstacle to ending the conflict.
The carefully worded resolution stops short of calling for sanctions against Israel or seeking recognition for Palestinian statehood. But it is designed to increase pressure on both Israel and the United States, Palestinian officials said.
The U.S. frequently has supported Israel by vetoing such moves in the United Nations. But Palestinian officials say the proposed resolution largely mirrors views expressed by the Obama administration in recent months.
“It’s a very moderate resolution by design because we don’t want the U.S. to veto it,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Sunday. “We want the international community to tell Israel that the settlements are against international law.”
If the U.S. were to veto a resolution that reflects what President Obama “said in his speech in Cairo” and what Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said, “then that’s a story,” Erekat said.
U.S. State Department officials are waiting to see the language of the resolution, but they said they would prefer to resume peace talks rather than see diplomatic moves at the U.N.
Israeli officials accused Palestinians of evading the peace process. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he was prepared to sit down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “until white smoke wafts,” referring to the Vatican signal for selection of a new pope.
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which had been suspended for almost two years, resumed Sept. 2. But they broke down less than a month later after Israel did not renew a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction.
Palestinians said they would not return to the negotiating table unless Israel stops building settlements in lands it occupied in 1967.
The U.S. also opposes settlement construction, but last month the Obama administration gave up on efforts to persuade Israel to stop building and decided to look for another way to propel the negotiation process.
Though a U.N. resolution against settlements would not be new, analysts see the Palestinian campaign as the beginning of a new strategy to muster international support and apply pressure on Israel.
Ali Hussein, editor in chief of the Palestinian news agency Wafa, said the draft resolution was “a first step on a long road of resolutions until we get to the final resolution that says the occupation should end.”
Palestinians are hoping to persuade the international community to offer a peace plan, which would include recognition of a Palestinian state, and pressure Israel to accept it.
In a televised speech over the weekend, Abbas called upon the Mideast “quartet,” comprising the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, to draft a peace plan based on previous Security Council resolutions.
Separately Sunday, the Israeli military said it would investigate the deaths of two Palestinians in the West Bank over the weekend.
On Saturday, Jawaher abu Rahmah, 36, died after inhaling tear gas at a demonstration against Israel’s barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin. Since tear gas is typically nonlethal, it remained unclear whether soldiers used excessive amounts or whether the woman had health problems that contributed to her reaction.
The woman’s brother, Bassam, was killed during a similar protest in 2009 when he was struck at close range by a tear-gas canister.
The military also is investigating the shooting death Sunday of a Palestinian man who was approaching an army checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. Military officials say the man was brandishing a broken glass bottle, but Palestinian witnesses said the man, Ahmed Muslamani, 24, was unarmed, carrying only a soft drink bottle.
Times staff writer Sanders reported from Jerusalem and special correspondent Abukhater from Ramallah.