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Report: Obama to withhold veto from Palestinian UN move to condemn Israeli settlements
President Barack Obama is about to withhold the US veto from a Palestinian-Arab motion due to be tabled at the UN Security Council condemning Israel for its settlement policy in the West Bank and Jerusalem, debkafile's Washington sources report. If he does, he will be the first US president to let an anti-Israel motion go through the Security Council and building on the West Bank and even in the forty-year old suburbs of East Jerusalem would become illegal.
This situation would throw Israel's relations with the US, the UN and the European Union into deep crisis. By failing to block such a motion, Obama would encourage the Palestinians and hostile Arab states to continue to use the UN Security Council to undermine Israel's legitimacy and even recognize a unilateral Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders without negotiations (Debkafile).
This could be the reason behind reports that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's is in the process of creating a map of a proposed Palestinian state. According to reports he has drafted a map of a Palestinian state in provisional borders. The map would essentially "freeze the existing situation in the territories, with minor changes," a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
The proposal is meant to show that Israel is genuinely interested in progress toward peace, and to force the Palestinians to say whether they really want a state.
According to the official, Lieberman says Israel must take the diplomatic initiative by proposing a Palestinian state in provisional borders. This would preempt international recognition of such a state in the 1967 borders, reduce international pressure on Israel and transfer at least part of the state to the Palestinians.
"After a Palestinian state has been established in provisional borders, it would be possible to resume diplomatic negotiations and maybe reach agreements on transferring additional territory to the Palestinian state," the official said.
Lieberman has briefed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the project but has not yet shown him the map. Lieberman, the source said, believes that the more time passes, the more people will come around to the idea that the goal for now should be an interim agreement with the Palestinians. The idea is already gaining support in the forum of seven key ministers.
The Foreign Ministry source said Lieberman's map also includes a network of new roads linking the areas under Palestinian control. The map "provides territorial contiguity that would enable the Palestinian state in provisional borders to be viable," he said.
Lieberman's plan, which corresponds to the second stage of the 2003 U.S.-sponsored road map peace plan, would not involve evacuating settlements or transferring significant additional territory to the PA. Thus the new state's provisional borders would comprise mainly the parts of the West Bank known as Areas A and B. The PA currently has full control over Area A, and civilian but not security control in Area B.
Together, these areas comprise some 42 percent of the West Bank. But a bit of additional territory might be thrown in to bring the new state up to 45 or 50 percent of the West Bank.
According to the Foreign Ministry official, the ministry is finalizing a report that will list all the steps Israel has taken to further economic and security cooperation with the Palestinians, contrasted with all the steps the PA has taken against Israel.
The report is due to be completed in another week, after which Lieberman plans to send it to the U.S. State Department and both houses of Congress. He will then ask the United States to threaten to halt financial assistance to the PA if it does not end its anti-Israel campaign (Haaretz.com).
As I reported in my Saturday update on my website, Abbas is attempting to compromise to get Israel back to the table before they can get this map in US hands to be presented to Palestinian officials in the near future.
Since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected President Barack Obama's proposal to suspend settlement construction for 90 days of intensive negotiations over the future border between Israel and Palestine, Netanyahu has been depicted internationally as an opponent of peace. His rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, has been collecting nations that recognize Palestinian independence, claiming that only Israel is preventing its realization. This weekend, Abbas ruled out the possibility of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, without Israeli agreement, but also warned of a new intifada in September in the absence of such agreement.
Netanyahu needs a countermeasure that will get Abbas off his back, depict Israel as an avid supporter of peace and, if possible, also paint the Palestinians as having yet again missed an opportunity to reach an agreement.
One option is to adopt the concept advanced by the Reut Institute, under which Israel would upgrade the PA's political status and recognize it as an independent state within its existing borders. The state that would be established in the Palestinian urban enclaves would negotiate with Israel over the remaining West Bank territories and all the other issues of the final-status agreement. This concept is built into the second phase of the so-called "Road Map," which called for the creation of a Palestinian state within provisional borders.
By announcing his support in principle for the establishment of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu also implied that he supports this idea. Those behind it argue that it would eliminate all of the threats and dangers that the Palestinians pose for Israel: the demographic danger, the danger of the PA's collapse and concomitant reimposition on Israel of the burden of the occupation and the threat of a binational state (the one-state solution). The Palestinians would have a state, whose citizens would have the right to vote in its elections. The demographic threat would then be over. And the greater the number of nations recognizing the Palestinian state, the smaller the danger of the PA's collapse and merger with Israel. Perhaps that explains why Israel has responded to the wave of international announcements of recognition of the Palestinian state with limp protests.
Abbas has opposed a state with provisional borders in the past and can be expected to do so again, even if the offer comes from Netanyahu. If he changes his mind and says yes, Israel will come out looking good. If he refuses, Israeli public relations will have a field day: We offered them a state again, and they didn't want it. That's the best place for Netanyahu to be, with the Palestinians once more in the role of the nay-sayers and Israel not having to make payments in the form of territory or dismantling settlements (Haaretz.com).
It's hard to tell who will gain the upper hand in this fight, but Israel is intent on placing the burden of peace squarely back in the court of the Palestinians. Question is, will the US reject the Lieberman Palestinian state map with provisional borders as a non-starter since it would most certainly be rejected by Palestinian officials?
The next few weeks and months will determine much in the direction of Middle East peace. I would not rule out President Obama withholding his veto when the proposed UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement building comes before the security council.
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