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Will PA wait for US elections to submit new UN resolution?

Palestinians are not convinced by the Palestinian Authority's justifications for delaying a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity.
A general view shows houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement located close to the Jewish settlement of Shilo, near Ramallah October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Baz Ratner - RTSR12I

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian Authority's postponement of its submittal of a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council condemning Israeli settlement activities until after the US presidential elections has annoyed Palestinians.

Some believe that now is the best time to present such a draft resolution, which was supposed to be submitted at the end of September, in light of an international condemnation of Israeli settlement activity, which expanded by 40% during the first half of 2016 compared with the second half of 2015.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had announced in his speech at the UN headquarters Sept. 22 that the PA will submit to the Security Council a draft resolution condemning Israel's settlement activities and settler terror against the Palestinians, saying that such practices obstructed international efforts to achieve a two-state solution.

Abbas said, "Despite the Security Council's adoption of 12 resolutions condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory since 1967, none of these resolutions has been implemented, encouraging Israel to continue pursuing its plans for the seizure of more Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with impunity." He said he hoped no one would cast a veto and called on the United Nations to protect the Palestinian people.

In its 146th session held Sept. 8 in Cairo, the Ministerial Council of the Arab League had called on the Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israel's settlement policy in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, describing such policy as a major obstacle to peace and to the two-state solution.

Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor, "The Arab Group and some friendly countries in the Security Council proposed the postponement of the submittal of the draft resolution until after the US elections, although the PA is not convinced about this," noting that consultations with those countries are underway in order to finalize the draft resolution and submit it to the Security Council before the end of this year.

It should be noted that, based on a Palestinian request, an Arab quartet committee meeting was held in Cairo on Oct. 3 at Arab League headquarters to discuss the submittal of the draft resolution to the Security Council.

Majdalani said the Arab Group and friendly countries focused on the draft resolution's need for a sufficient number of votes in order not to be blocked.

He added, "The draft resolution will [necessarily] face one of the following three possibilities: It will pass and the United States will abstain from voting on it; the United States will use its veto right and the draft resolution will be nixed, which is most likely; or the United States will vote in favor of the resolution, which is unlikely."

The United States used its veto — much feared by the Palestinians — 33 times from 1979 until 2014 to turn down resolutions concerning the Palestinian cause, most recently in December 2014, when it vetoed a draft resolution submitted by the Arab Group in the Security Council calling for the declaration of a Palestinian state and ending the Israeli occupation by 2017.

The PA's postponement decision has not convinced the majority of Palestinian factions. Mariam Abu Daqqa, a political bureau member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, decried the postponement decision and called on the PA to proceed with the submittal of the draft, despite the Palestinians' entrenched conviction that the Security Council has always sided with the executioner (Israel) and not the victim (the Palestinian people).

Abu Daqqa told Al-Monitor, "The United States will likely block the resolution by casting its veto. This will not be the first time that the Unites States uses its veto power to thwart Arab draft resolutions in favor of the Palestinian cause," calling on the PA and the Arab Group to exert vital pressures and use all possible means to dissuade the United States from using its veto.

Yahya Moussa, a Hamas leader, told Al-Monitor, "I think that the PA's postponement of the submittal of the draft resolution stems from its fear of being subject to Israeli and US sanctions, as was the case following the PA's application for membership in the United Nations on Nov. 30, 2012, despite US and Israeli opposition. … The postponement decision further consecrates the Palestinian street's conviction that the PA lacks any future vision or plan to give the Palestinians [their due] rights,” calling on the PA to achieve national unity and political partnership with all factions, which could strengthen its position against Israel during peace talks.

Moussa was surprised about the pressure exerted since April by the Arab quartet committee, including Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, on the PA to postpone the submission of the draft resolution to the Security Council until after the US elections — allegedly to give more time for French efforts to make progress on the peace process. "The Arab Group seeks to normalize relations with Israel, whether secretly or openly, and is not backing the Palestinian people," he said.

In turn, Abdul Sattar Qassem, a political science professor at An-Najah University in Nablus, told Al-Monitor, "The PA's decision is absurd and reflects the PA's lack of seriousness about bringing the Palestinian cause before the international community, which has given the Palestinians more than what has been accorded by the Oslo agreement."

Indeed, it should be recalled that the UN Security Council had issued several resolution in favor of Palestinians, such as Resolution 242 on the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from the Arab territories occupied in 1967 as well as Resolution 194 on the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes from which they were displaced in 1948 and their due compensation.

Qassem called on the PA not to restrict the discussion of Palestinians rights to bilateral negotiations with Israel and to involve the international community, wondering why the submittal of the draft resolution has been linked to the US elections, which he believed will not affect any US veto decision.

Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip, told Al-Monitor, "The PA's postponement of the submittal of its draft resolution aims to avoid repeating the failed experience of December 2014, when a Palestinian draft resolution for ending Israeli occupation and condemning settlements was not passed, getting only eight of 15 votes, while it required 9 votes to pass; without that the United States uses its veto right."

He added, "The days immediately following the US presidential elections on Nov. 8 are the [best] opportunity that the PA has been waiting for. The PA believes that Obama — who will remain in office for two months after the elections — will be liberated during this period from the pressure of the Jewish lobby in the United States, as the Jewish vote is deemed the swing vote in any US elections. Consequently, the US representative in the [Security Council] may abstain from voting on the resolution, despite the convictions entrenched among the Palestinians that the United States will inevitably veto the draft resolution."

However, the Palestinians seem to be convinced that even if a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories was issued, Israel will not abide by it and will retaliate by building more settlement units in the territories.

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