US Scrambles to Avoid, Forestall UN Resolution over Illegal Jewish Settlements

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) Meets with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (Photo: Ron Przysucha, via US State Department Website)

The Biden administration is scrambling to avert a diplomatic crisis over Israeli settlement activity this week at the United Nations that threatens to overshadow and perhaps derail what the US hopes will be a solid five days of focus on condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The New Arab reported.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made two emergency calls on Saturday from the Munich Security Conference, which he is attending in an as-yet unsuccessful bid to avoid or forestall such a showdown. It remained unclear whether another last-minute intervention might salvage the situation, according to diplomats familiar with the ongoing discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

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Without giving details, the US State Department said in nearly identical statements that Blinken had spoken to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from Munich to “reaffirm the US commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and opposition to policies that endanger its viability”.

“The secretary underscored the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to take steps that restore calm and our strong opposition to unilateral measures that would further escalate tensions,” the statements said.

Neither statement mentioned the proposed UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate halt to illegal Israeli settlements. The Palestinians want to bring that resolution to a vote on Monday. And neither statement gave any indication as to how the calls ended.

But diplomats familiar with the conversations said that in his call to Abbas, Blinken reiterated an offer to the Palestinians for a US package of incentives to entice them to drop or at least delay the resolution.

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Those incentives included a White House meeting for Abbas with President Joe Biden, movement on reopening the American consulate in Jerusalem, and a significant aid package, the diplomats said.

Abbas was noncommittal, the diplomats said, but also suggested he would not be amenable unless the Israelis agreed to a six-month freeze on illegal settlement expansion on land the Palestinians claim for a future state.

Blinken then called Netanyahu, who, according to the diplomats, was similarly noncommittal about the six-month settlement freeze. Netanyahu also repeated Israeli opposition to reopening the consulate, which was closed during President Donald Trump’s administration, they said.

The US and others were hoping to resolve the deadlock on Sunday, but the diplomats said it was unclear if that was possible.

The drama arose just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which will be the subject of special UN General Assembly and Security Council sessions on Thursday and Friday.

The US opposes the Palestinian resolution and is almost certain to veto it. Not vetoing would carry a considerable domestic political risk for Biden on the cusp of the 2024 presidential race, and top House Republicans have already warned against it.

But the administration also fears that using its veto to protect Israel risks losing support at the world body for measures condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine.

(The New Arab, PC)

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