Palestinian Statehood Push Fails at United Nations

With peace talks stalled, the Palestinians tried to push through a Security Council measure calling for a deal within 12 months. They couldn’t pull it off.

A vote is taken during a meeting at the United Nations July 21, 2014 in New York, to draft a UN Security Council resolution demanding that pro-Russian separatists provide "full and unfettered access" to the crash site of the downed Malaysian jet in eastern Ukraine. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian-backed resolution demanding an end to Israel’s occupation was defeated at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, failing to win the nine votes necessary for passage and saving the Obama administration the embarrassment of having to veto it.

Despite worsening ties between Washington and Jerusalem and mounting international pressure for a two-state solution, the United States voted against the resolution, which called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories by the end of 2017. The only other nation to oppose the proposal was Australia. The final vote was 8-2, with five abstentions.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said the American no vote wasn’t meant to indicate support for the status quo, but was instead a reflection of what she saw as a flawed resolution. “This text addresses the concerns of only one side,” she said after the vote. “It is deeply unbalanced.”

The State Department said earlier on Tuesday that the draft would impose “arbitrary deadlines” on the peace process and complicate efforts to restart direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, which have been stalled for months with no signs of improving.

Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian diplomat, said the proposal’s failure was a “blow to international law.”

“Anyone who didn’t support the Palestinian proposal, supported continued Israeli defiance, settlement construction and violation of international law,” he said.

The resolution outlines a framework for negotiations based on the borders that existed before Israel captured the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. It also sets a deadline for a peace deal within 12 months and the cessation of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories by late 2017.

Exasperated by the defunct peace process, Palestinians are seeking to internationalize the conflict at the U.N. by seeking membership and recognition from the world body. Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, has long stated that its eastern flank would be vulnerable if it pulled out entirely from the West Bank. Many Israeli security officials are particularly concerned that a withdrawal would put Ben Gurion International Airport and many of Israel’s largest cities within reach of even low-range rockets fired from Palestinian-controlled land.

Ahead of the vote, Secretary of State John Kerry told his counterparts that the United States would not allow a vote at the U.N. before Israel’s March elections. Many outside observers believe that the White House wants to see incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defeated at the polls and replaced by a more centrist leader, but the administration has strenuously denied that it has a preferred candidate or would do anything to interfere in the elections. Recent polling shows Netanyahu’s Likud party in a virtual dead heat with a coalition headed by his two biggest political rivals.

Eight countries voted in support of the resolution. Britain, which openly criticized the proposal ahead of Tuesday’s vote, abstained from voting. France had also expressed deep concerns about the measure, but it ended up voting in favor of it. The Palestinians had hoped to win the support of Nigeria, but the West African country ended up abstaining, which sealed the resolution’s fate.

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