After years of blocking U.N. efforts to pressure Israelis and Palestinians into accepting a lasting two-state solution, the United States is edging closer toward supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution that would call for the resumption of political talks to conclude a final peace settlement, according to Western diplomats.
The move follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive re-election Tuesday after the incumbent publicly abandoned his commitment to negotiate a Palestinian state — the basis of more than 20 years of U.S. diplomatic efforts — and promised to continue the construction of settlements on occupied territory. The development also reflects deepening pessimism over the prospect of U.S.-brokered negotiations delivering peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Shortly before this week’s election, the United States informed its diplomatic partners that it would hold off any moves in the U.N. Security Council designed to put Israel on the spot at the United Nations in the event that Netanyahu’s challenger, Isaac Herzog, won the election. But U.S. officials signaled a willingness to consider a U.N. resolution in the event that Netanyahu was re-elected and formed a coalition government opposed to peace talks. The United States has not yet circulated a draft, but diplomats say Washington has set some red lines and is unwilling to agree to set a fixed deadline for political talks to conclude.
“The more the new government veers to the right the more likely you will see something in New York,” said a Western diplomat.
Netanyahu’s government will likely be made up of right-wing and Orthodox parties adamantly opposed to making concessions to Palestinians. According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, the Israeli leader has already consulted with party leaders he plans to add to his coalition, including Naftali Bennett of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, Avigdor Lieberman of the far-right nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, and leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties.
On Wednesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not rule out the possibility of the United States supporting a U.N. resolution on Israel-Palestine.
“We’re currently evaluating our approach. We’re not going to prejudge what we would do if there was a U.N. action,” she told reporters.
For decades, Democratic and Republican administrations have resisted a role for the U.N. Security Council in dealing with the Middle East crisis. They have argued consistently that an enduring peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. Israeli leaders have also strongly opposed giving the world body a greater role in bringing about a deal.
However, the prospect of direct negotiations appeared to evaporate with Netanyahu’s pre-election declaration that he would never allow the creation of a Palestinian state. The comment completely reversed the Israeli leader’s previous support for an independent Palestine as part of a permanent peace deal between the two sides.