Israeli Official: Palestinians Appear to Lack Needed UN Votes

Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Marco Castro

It looks as though Israel and the United States have managed to secure a significant diplomatic victory at the United Nations, as the Palestinians do not seem to have the necessary votes in the Security Council for their UN membership application. While the bid was doomed to fail by US veto, it appears at this time that the Palestinians were not able to even gain the nine yes votes in the Council needed to force an American veto, according to an anonymous Israeli official. It’s uncertain when or if a vote will take place on the matter.

Speaking by phone with The Mideast Update, the Israeli official said that while taking politics into account, it “appears to be the situation” that the Palestinians have fallen short in their vote count. He expressed the hope that this blow will push the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

“I think for the Palestinians this is a diplomatic slap in the face. They didn’t expect this,” said the Israeli official. “I think their gameplan was that they have the numbers, they force the United States to veto and then they claim victory. They’d say the system isn’t fair, the international community supports them… and only because of the American veto it wasn’t passed. Now what we discovered over the last few weeks is that actually that was like a house of cards that crumbled.”

It remains unclear when a UN vote on the Palestinian bid could take place. Technically it can happen at any time that a Security Council member tables a resolution on the matter, but a Security Council diplomat who spoke by phone with The Mideast Update said that at this point there is “no indication” yet that that will or will not happen.

The Security Council new admissions committee, not the full Council, is set to meet on Friday morning and is expected to formally adopt the factual draft report reviewing the Palestinian application. That draft report, according to the Council diplomat, states there is no consensus among the members on the Palestinian bid. The draft report discussion is separate from an actual vote by the full Council on the matter.

The Israeli official, meanwhile, said it is unclear if a full vote will occur at all, saying, “It’s not clear to me that they really want to have a situation where they’re totally embarrassed” by seeing their bid fail without even forcing an American veto.

The US is one of five nations with veto power on the Council, which has 15 members in total from around the world. While Israel has close connections to members on the Council, especially the US, Israel is not officially on the Council.

The US has repeatedly argued that the Palestinian application harms the conditions for peace talks, and it appears their diplomatic efforts in the Council were successful.

“I think on the Security Council there is an understanding that the only way to Palestinian statehood is through a peace agreement, which can only be achieved through negotiations with Israel,” said the Israeli official. “And I think people are fed up with the Palestinians avoiding negotiations, boycotting the negotiating table.”

He also thought that people understand that a Palestinian state created “in the framework of conflict”—without peace with Israel—“would in fact be counterproductive.”

The European Union is still interested in seeing negotiations resume. Envoys from the Mideast Quartet, consisting of the US, the EU, the UN and Russia, are set to meet again separately with the parties on November 14.

“The EU has taken note of [Palestinian] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ application for full membership in the UN. The United Nations Security Council is now examining it,” said a European diplomat regarding the EU’s position in an email to The Mideast Update. “At the same time the Quartet is undertaking all efforts to get negotiations underway. Our goal remains to see a Palestinian state alongside a secure State of Israel.”

The Israeli official said they remain ready to return to direct talks without preconditions, with the apparent failure of the UN Security Council effort a possible motivator for the Palestinians to join them.

“I hope that this Palestinian diplomatic defeat will cause them to re-think their unilateralist UN strategy, which leads nowhere, and maybe they will consider returning to negotiations,” said the Israeli official. “We are ready.”

Meanwhile, the Israelis are working with the Quartet to set up conditions for talks to resume. However—with the Quartet’s desire that the sides work on proposals on territory and security in the background—the Israeli official said they do not plan to negotiate indirectly.

“Israel is working with the Quartet to find, we hope, a framework which will lead to the early-as-possible resumption of direct talks,” said the official. “There is no substitute for direct talks, and we have no intention of allowing the Quartet discussions to become a substitute for direct talks.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 10, 2011)