Israeli Official: Palestinians Appear to Lack Majority in Security Council

UNITED NATIONS—The Palestinian bid to for full United Nations membership could be at risk before it even is launched, as they may not have the nine “yes” votes needed to pass a full membership resolution in the UN Security Council. The US has veto powers in the Council and has said they will veto the bid if it passes otherwise, but a lack of sufficient votes would be a huge blow to Palestinian efforts to win a symbolic diplomatic victory.

An anonymous Israeli official, speaking by phone with The Mideast Update on Wednesday, said, “At the moment I think the Palestinians are under a lot of pressure because it’s not clear that they have the numbers to pass what they want in the Security Council.”

He said that the Palestinian plan in the past was to force a US veto, amidst at least nine yes votes in the Council, “and it’s like the whole international community stands united against Israel and the United States.”

While noting that the situation is “still fluid,” the official said that the Palestinians have “seen now that they don’t have the numbers, and that making an American veto superfluous—this appears to be the situation—and therefore they’re under pressure. Because if they can’t even get a majority on the Council, they’re exposed that there’s not actually international support for what they’re saying.”

The official’s comments came following US President Barack Obama’s speech at the UN General Assembly, in which he said that UN resolutions could not bring peace to the conflict, but that the parties had to resolve it themselves. The Israeli official noted that’s the sentiment they’re seeing outside the US as well.

“We have friends in the international community, and that’s apparent by the fact that we can see that the Palestinians cannot receive votes they require in the Security Council,” said the Israeli official.

“And this is actually very interesting, because, for many years the United Nations has been a difficult place for Israel, with their automatic majorities against Israel, and obviously we are gratified by the fact that it appears that [the Palestinians] can’t get the votes that they require, and the United States will not have to veto.”

The Israeli official said regarding their assertion that the path to a Palestinian state is through negotiations that “a lot of people in the international community agree with us, a lot of people. And everyone understands that you can’t impose peace from the outside, it won’t work. Peace has to be negotiated directly between the parties.”

Obama, meanwhile, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday. Prior to the meeting, Netanyahu expressed the hope that other world leaders would follow the American lead on the peace talks issue. According to a transcript of comments posted on the White House website, Netanyahu said, “I think the Palestinians want to achieve a state through the international community, but they’re not prepared yet to give peace to Israel in return.”

Speaking with reporters prior to his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu was quoted as saying he knows that other world leaders are “under enormous pressure” over the Palestinian matter. Nonetheless, Netanyahu said that “my hope is that there will be other leaders in the world, responsible leaders, who will heed your call, Mr. President, and oppose this effort to shortcut peace negotiations—in fact, to avoid them. Because I think that avoiding these negotiations is bad for Israel, bad for the Palestinians, and bad for peace.”

The Israeli official, in his comments to The Mideast Update, noted the Israelis were “very encouraged” by Obama’s UN speech. “It was a good speech. It was a speech that we could identify with; it was a speech that we could agree with.

“Obama said clearly the only way to Palestinian statehood, the only way to achieve that, is through negotiations with Israel. There’s no substitute for negotiations. The UN cannot impose a solution from the outside, it won’t work.”

Obama reiterated his belief in the inability for the UN to solve the conflict in comments with Netanyahu prior to their meeting.

“Peace cannot be imposed on the parties. It’s going to have to be negotiated,” Obama was quoted as saying. “One side’s actions in the United Nations will achieve neither statehood nor self-determination for the Palestinians.

“But Israelis and Palestinians sitting down together and working through these very difficult issues that have kept the parties apart for decades now, that is what can achieve what is, I know, the ultimate goal of all of us, which is two states, side by side, living in peace and security.”

In light of Obama’s comments, Netanyahu expressed his confidence that the Palestinian “attempt to shortcut this process, not negotiate a peace—that attempt to get state membership in the United Nations—will not succeed.”

As for the Israelis, the diplomatic momentum favoring them at the Security Council isn’t enough to have them claiming complete success either. Said the Israeli official to The Mideast Update, “Real success will be when the Palestinians agree to return to the negotiating table, and we can get the peace process underway, that’ll be real success.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, September 21, 2011)