The United States refused to say Thursday whether or not it would support a Palestinian proposal for a United Nations resolution to condemn Israeli settlement building — but ruled nothing out.
While Washington often criticizes Israeli building work in occupied areas as an obstacle to peace, it has also traditionally resisted Palestinian efforts to pressure Israel through the United Nations.
And, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the United States wields a veto that it has often used in the past to shoot down motions it deems unfairly critical of the Jewish state.
“We understand that there is an early draft that the Palestinians have shared informally in New York,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“I’m not going to comment on an informal draft resolution. Nothing has been formally introduced or circulated at the Security Council,” he added.
But, using terms that may raise concerns in Israel, he added: “We are very concerned about trends on the ground and we do have a sense of urgency about the two-state solution.
“We will consider all of our options for advancing our shared objective of lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Palestinian officials have circulated a draft resolution that would deem Israeli settlements illegal and an obstacle to a peace deal based on two states living side by side within agreed borders.
It demands that Israel “immediately and completely” cease all settlement activities.
The UN Security Council failed to adopt a similar motion condemning Israeli settlement building in 2011 after the United States deployed its veto.
Washington has since argued that the best route to peace lies through a comprehensive deal between the two parties, and not through litigating the conflict in the Security Council.
But the peace process is moribund and there has been a recent uptick both in Palestinian violence against Israelis and in Israel authorizing new settlement building.
The Palestinian draft is still under discussion among Arab countries at the United Nations and it is not known when it will be presented to the full council.
But the world body is due to discuss the Middle East crisis on Monday and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is due in New York next week to attend the signing of the UN climate deal.