Senior Palestinian officials, including some from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, are criticizing the Palestinian Authority president’s decision to postpone consideration of a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement construction.
For the past several weeks, the Palestinians have been telling both Western diplomats and the media that they intend to demand a vote on the resolution, a move approved by both Fatah’s Central Committee and the PLO Executive Committee. Early this month Haaretz reported that the PA had distributed its proposed resolution to several UN Security Council members.
But last week, Haaretz reported that the PA was leaning toward freezing the resolution, due to both pressure from France and a lack of enthusiasm among other Security Council members. France argued that the resolution would undermine its efforts to convene an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this summer. PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki confirmed the Haaretz report in New York this weekend, just a day after his office in Ramallah denied it.
A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz that the Security Council resolution is important, but this is the wrong moment for two reasons. The first is that the French drive for an international conference is beginning to gain backing from other countries, especially in Europe, and the PA has always supported any move to internationalize the conflict.
The second is that the PA is awaiting a report on construction in the settlements that the Middle East Quartet is slated to publish early next month. The Quartet consists of the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.
“We haven’t yet received the report, but we know there’s already a first draft, and the report is expected to attack construction in the settlements,” the official said. “From our standpoint, even if the report finds faults with our performance, it will be a basis for the conference that the French are promoting, and then even the U.S., which is part of the Quartet, won’t be able to oppose the [Security Council] move and the convening of the conference.”
But a senior Fatah official termed the decision to postpone the resolution a mistake, saying there’s no contradiction between the resolution and the international conference.
“If we capitulate to pressure now,” he said, “then perhaps in the future, we’ll be pressured to postpone the conference or cancel it, and then only Israel and the U.S. will gain more and more time.”
A senior PA official countered that the main goal right now is to ensure the success of the French move, since it is the first serious attempt since the 1993 Oslo Accords to end America’s almost exclusive custody over the talks and transfer it to other countries, mainly European.
But Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative, said this was a mistake.
“It’s impossible to rely solely on the French initiative, since to this day we don’t know what it’s based on, and on the other hand, we know very well that Israel and the U.S. won’t lend a hand to implementing such an important move, and Israel will continue building in the settlements and expropriating large parts of the West Bank as if there were no global public opinion,” he said. “Therefore, if there’s a trend we should support in practice, it’s increasing anti-Israel boycott activity and intensifying the popular struggle.”