Negotiations on a UN resolution to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects are making little headway, with Europeans waiting for a US response to proposals as the Israeli election campaign steams ahead.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is heading to Rome on Sunday for a key meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss initiatives at the United Nations.
Jordan last month circulated a draft Palestinian text to the Security Council setting November 2016 as a deadline for the end of the Israeli occupation.
But the text ran into opposition from the United States, which has veto power, and other countries that felt it lacked balance, diplomats said. It was never put to a vote.
France stepped in last month to try to cobble together along with Britain and Germany a resolution that would win consensus at the 15-member council.
The text would call for a return to negotiations with a view to achieving a two-state solution by which Israel and a Palestinian state would co-exist.
Negotiations have hit hurdles over whether to include a two-year deadline for talks on a final settlement to be completed.
France is also proposing to host an international conference to launch the new peace track, bringing in all the key players in a show of support for a final settlement.
Supporters of a UN resolution are hoping to win US backing or at least ensure that Washington will not oppose the measure — which would be the first text adopted by the council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2009.
“There is a window of opportunity,” said a European diplomat. “There is a willingness from the Americans to consider options at the UN.”
Kerry led a major push to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace earlier this year, but the effort collapsed in April.
UN diplomats see the failure of Kerry’s bid, followed by the brutal 50-day war in Gaza last summer as worrying signs that an Israeli-Palestinian peace may soon be out of reach.
WHAT DOES THE US WANT?
While the US administration has shown a willingness to discuss a UN-led push for peace, it has not given a clear answer as to what it would be ready to support in a proposed resolution.
Discussions have turned into a diplomatic minefield over the proposed timeframe for negotiations and Netanyahu’s plan to declare Israel a Jewish state.
With so many hurdles that have yet to be cleared, diplomats hold out little hope that agreement on a draft resolution will be reached by the end of the month.
“It would be some kind of miracle” if agreement were reached, said one envoy.
Israel’s election campaign is complicating the effort, but Washington has not asked the Europeans to postpone the push for a resolution until after the March 17 vote.
For the Europeans, there is a clear urgency for the Security Council to step in and make its views known on the worsening conflict.
European parliaments in Britain, France, Spain, Ireland and Portugal have asked their governments to recognize Palestinian statehood — a move that would bypass negotiations.
European diplomats argue that reaching consensus on a resolution will be more difficult closer to the Israeli vote and fresh violence could flare up at any time.
There is another complicating factor in the mix: Several countries with a pro-Palestinian stance are set to take their seats at the Security Council in January — a development that is not lost on the US administration as it weighs a role for the UN.
In the face of Security Council inaction, the Palestinians have threatened to join the International Criminal Court and file complaints against Israel.