Report: US Planning Peace Proposal to Halt UN Push

In an effort to stave off a Palestinian bid at the United Nations, the United States is currently working with the Mideast Quartet—the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia—to develop a new substantial proposal for re-launching Middle East peace talks, according to a US newspaper. The New York Times report, which cites unnamed officials in the US and foreign diplomats, said that the plan would attempt to bridge differences and outline steps to resume Israel-Palestinian negotiations towards the creation of a Palestinian state.

The New York Times said the Americans want to give the Palestinians an alternative to the UN. The newspaper noted that the Barack Obama administration does not want to be one of the only nations to oppose a Palestinian move at the UN, and some officials are concerned about the potential for Mideast violence afterwards. To discourage a UN vote, the US is engaging in more aggressive forms of diplomacy as well.

The report said the US has told the Palestinians that they will veto a measure at the powerful UN Security Council to make a Palestinian state a UN member. Security Council approval is necessary for a legally-binding resolution allowing the Palestinians to become a full UN member state.

A UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote lacks the same legal power and significance, and is therefore a more symbolic move if done by itself. Nonetheless, even without Security Council approval, a more symbolic UNGA status upgrade to nonvoting observer state could lay the groundwork for a broader Palestinian diplomatic and legal offensive against Israel. The US cannot veto such a status upgrade at the General Assembly.

So in addition to trying to change Palestinian minds, they are also trying to reduce the number of nations would support the Palestinian plan at the UN—and thereby further disincline the Palestinians from taking that route.

With time running down before the Palestinians proposal is set to go to the UN, it remains unclear how much headway the Americans are making. The New York Times said two US administration officials said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has indicated he would rather hold genuine peace talks than go to the UN. But another Palestinian official dismissed the US offer.

Furthermore, the WAFA Palestinian news agency quoted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as saying that the US had not yet presented the Palestinians with a new peace plan proposal. Abbas is set to meet with Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Tuesday.

In the report, citing Erekat’s comments to a local radio station, he sounded focused on going to the UN, which he claimed did not “contradict” a return to negotiations.

The US, Germany and others have all expressed opposition to a Palestinian UN bid. In addition, Israel has said a UN approach would risk codifying hardline Palestinian positions in a UN resolution thanks to the Palestinian “automatic majority” there. As a result, Palestinian compromise in peace talks, both now and in the future, would be even less likely.

(By Staff,, September 4, 2011)