This morning, I was going to continue my survey of Middle East countries, primarily in relationship to Israel, and in continuation of my blogs on Iran, Egypt and Turkey, by writing on Jordan. However, yesterday I received a copy of a resolution that Jordan, as a newly-elected rotating members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), was circulating to existing and newly-elected members of that Council that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had approved on Wednesday. The proposed resolution has been published in this morning’s Haaretz and is appended hereto.
Since October, the PA had been promising to ask the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution requiring Israel’s retreat to the pre-1967 line, but evidently thought there was a better chance of obtaining the required 9 of 15 votes of Council members needed to pass if the resolution was brought to a vote after the new Security Council takes office on 1 January 2015 and when five of the existing members are replaced by five new members. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan had been circulating drafts since November. On 29 November 2014, a pan-Arab draft on a Palestinian state had been sent to the Security Council as the United Kingdom, France and, a non-member, Germany, were evidently preparing their own versions. All this was taking place against the background of a number of European states, beginning with Sweden, recognizing Palestine. In October, the British parliament, with an overwhelming majority, passed a non-binding motion recognizing Palestine as a state.
On the 17th of December, almost as soon as the blue-lined (final version) draft resolution had been made available to the Security Council, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, announced that the US would veto the resolution. The quick promise of a veto was not expected. In fact, it had been uncertain whether the administration would even veto at all. The swift announcement is an indicator that the Obama administration regards the current resolution as an outlier. The USA, especially the Obama administration with its multilateralist approach to international issues, has been wary of using its veto power in the UNSC. On 1 February 2011, the US cast its first veto in the UNSC to block a draft Palestinian resolution declaring Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as both illegal and an obstacle to peace. This was followed by the year-long Kerry initiative that finally collapsed this past spring.
The government of Israel had unequivocally expressed its opposition to the resolution. But so did key leaders of the opposition. On Wednesday, Tzipi Livni urged John Kerry to announce the US intention to veto the resolution. Israel’s announcement of its opposition to the resolution and its intention to try to prevent it from passing may seem redundant given the threat of a US veto, but a vetoed resolution has moral force that a defeated resolution lacks. It is this difference between passing the resolution that is vetoed and failing to even pass the resolution that explains why the resolution is being submitted at this time. The Palestinians think they have the votes in the new year to pass the resolution.
However, Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour, on behalf of the PA, announced that it is not seeking a speedy vote, and, further, that it is willing to negotiate the terms of the resolution. In other words, this is an effort to restart peace negotiations under other auspices even if the veto hangs over the whole process. The veteran Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat, said that the PA wanted a statement of clear principles of peace.
What did he say they were?
1. A Palestinian state within the 1967 borders;
2. Jerusalem as its capital;
3. The release of all prisoners;
4. A declaration that all settlements are illegal.
As we shall see, they are not quite congruent with the published resolution, especially the third principle above. Nevertheless, given this statement of principles, and given that it took the USA less than 24 hours to promise a veto, why did Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Joudah, accompany the release of the resolution to other member of the UN Security Council with the boast that the Hashemite Kingdom, because of the prestige of the King, was more influential than the State of Israel, not only with the US administration and the State Department, but the US Congress as well?
Before answering the latter question, let’s turn to the version of the resolution that has been published. (See the addendum to this blog.) After the fourteen clauses in the preamble that reiterate past UN resolutions and principles on the matter at hand, and after offering a polite nod to American previous efforts, there are twelve principles set forth in the resolution. The thirteenth clause merely says that the Security Council remains open for discussion. In other words, under the cover first of PA openness to further negotiations, followed, presumably, by UNSC openness to negotiations, the general principles of a peace agreement are intended to be etched in stone, or, at least, in history, as the basic terms for a peace agreement.
Clause 1 reiterates the traditional UN position on a two-state solution calling for an end to the Israeli occupation and a final peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians within mutually and internationally recognized borders. It requires that the second sovereign state come into being within one, not two, years, and that the Israeli occupation come to an end, but does not specify that the occupation end at the same time as the State of Palestine comes into being. The clause calls for the Palestinian state to be contiguous (the West Bank and Gaza?) and viable. Unlike earlier informal versions circulated that had not been blue-lined, this formal version did not call for the “founding” of two states as if Israel did not exist and would only come into being coterminous with the recognition of a Palestinian state.
Clause 2 sets forth the basic terms of the peace agreement to be reached by further negotiations: A. The borders will be based on the 4th of June 1967 borders, that is, the borders prior to the Six Day War fought between the 5th and 10th of June 1967 and not the internationally recognized borders of the 1923 Sykes-Picot line agreement, the proposed 1947 partition lines or the 1949 Armistice lines. Between 1949 and 4 June 1967, the borders on the ground became the de facto borders. Further, the new borders envision land swaps, presumably as negotiated in the Oslo process, but specifies that those land swaps are to be both limited and equivalent.
Basing the negotiations on the 4 June 1967 borders would mean that the old city of Jerusalem goes to Palestine, but Jerusalem is dealt with separately in the resolution. Palestine could insist on moving its border back onto the north-east quadrant of Lake Kinneret (Lake Tiberias), contrary to the 1923 historical border, giving Palestine equal rights to the waters of the lake. The Jordan River between Lake Kinneret and Lake Hula becomes the basis for a boundary. At that time, the main issues were riparian rights to the river and lake rather than control of the underground aquifers. (For a very helpful discussion of the 4 June 1967 borders see Frederic C. Hof, “The Line of June 4, 1967” (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/67line.html). By implication, the Golan, annexed by Israel, goes back to Syria as well, presumably, including the Jewish settlement of Mishmar Ha-Yarden captured by Syria in the 1948 war.
B. There is a provision for third party peacekeeping and for ensuring that there is no terrorism, but Israel is given a deadline for ending its occupation in phases by the end of 1917.
C. In a phrasing adopted from the peace proposal of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, there will be a just and agreed solution for the Palestinian refugees based on resolution 194(III) without specifying a “right of return”; this implies compensation rather than return as the main route for resolving the Palestinian refugee issue.
D. Jerusalem is to be a common and shared capital for both countries and freedom of worship will be secured, a solution that goes beyond recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel with the old city left as a question mark, for a shared capital harks back to the UN resolution that proposed that Jerusalem remain united but internationalized or bi-lateralized in the current resolution. Further, Israel cannot even agree on “freedom of worship” among women, and men and among the various competing divisions within Judaism, so how can “freedom of worship” be guaranteed on the Temple Mount (Heb., Har Habayit; Arabic, Haram esh-Sharif)?
E. The resolution specifically points to water among other outstanding issues that will have to be settled.
Clauses 3 and 4 are both pro forma: 3) The Council agrees that the permanent agreement must immediately lead to an end of occupation and mutual recognition; 4) A timetable establishing the security arrangements through negotiation must be formed.
However, clause 5 is significant in welcoming Palestine as a full UN member. Up until recently, this was expected to be the heart of the resolution brought before the UNSC, a quest for permanent membership and, hence, recognition of Palestine as a state. The PA instead has decided to go for broke and place the UN membership issue within the framework of its position on a peace agreement. Since the US is promising a veto (which the PA had to know when they endorsed the resolution on Wednesday), it means that the Palestinians are going for a moral win beyond UN membership. The PA wants a formal resolution passed by at least 9 of 15 members of the UNSC supporting its position on a peace agreement and, thereby, implicitly legitimizing a position that both the US and Israel would not support. It prefers that moral victory more than full membership in the UN, though passage of this resolution will enhance its possibility of attaining that membership, especially if the timeframe is the end of 1917.
Half of the non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are re-elected each year. Though non-permanent or rotating members have no veto right, their combined votes can be very effective. Possibly 10 of the 15 members after 1 January 2015, when the vote is expected to take place, can be expected to support the resolution – China and Russia as permanent members and up to 8 of the 10 rotating members: Angola, Chad, Chile (likely), Jordan, Malaysia, Nigeria (likely), Spain (even though it beat out Turkey which would have certainly supported the resolution but, as pointed out in yesterday’s blog, has become more and more diplomatically isolated) and Venezuela. Only Japan and Lithuania of the rotating membership are in the “no” camp.
Angola takes its positions based on international law and the fundamental principle of self-determination. Malaysia, which already had wide sympathy because of the Malaysian МН17 Boeing crash, has positioned itself as the leading Muslim state opposed to Islamic State on ideological grounds. It convened a conference of leading experts on Muslim law which defined a Muslim state as one which guaranteed economic, political and social justice while the rights to life, freedom of religion, family, property, dignity and intellect are upheld. Recall further that most of the new members campaigned for their positions, not on simply a management of conflict agenda, but a conflict prevention agenda. On this plank, Spain was a leading proponent and backs up that position by providing peacekeeping troops. Venezuela, which campaigned on a platform of UN reform (President Nicolás Maduro called the charter of the UN high poetry), received unanimous support from Latin America and 182 out of 193 votes for its membership in spite of opposition by the United States. That means the resolution can be expected to get 9 and possibly even 10 votes in the UNSC before it is vetoed by the US.
The rest of the resolutions are expressions of motherhood:
6) The Council urges both sides to engage seriously and act together to guarantee peace and refrain from any act of incitement. Therefore, the council calls on all international states and organizations to support the negotiations with confidence-building measures.
7) The Council calls on all sides to stand behind their commitments to the International humanitarian law.
8) The Council encourages regional efforts to obtain peace in the Middle East, citing the Arab Peace Initiative as a reference.
9) The Council called for a new negotiating framework with the support of major stakeholders to help the parties reach an agreement in a timely way, beginning with holding a new international conference on the issue. The Council proposes assembling an international peace committee to launch negotiations. This has diplomatic significance for it removes the US from the leadership in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and search for peace and shifts it to the UN. Further, other countries are called upon to through the provision of political support as well as tangible support for post-conflict and peace-building arrangements.
10. Both sides are called on by the Council to refrain from taking one-sided, illegal steps, such as construction in settlements. (Note the indirect method of labeling the settlements as illegal.)
11. The Council urges both sides to immediately begin improving the unstable situation in the Gaza Strip and provide humanitarian aid through the different UN agencies.
12. The Council calls on the UN General Secretary to file a report stating the application of the decision within three months.
Note that there are no clauses calling for the release of prisoners.
Both the motives and strategy of the PA are clear. So is the reason for the US promising to veto the resolution as currently worded. The ground has been set for another negotiating route far more favourable to the Palestinians. But why did Jordan boast that its link with the US administration, with Congress and with the State Department is stronger than that of Israel? In the light of the swift promise of a veto, this seems a gross overreach.
I will try to answer this question in my next blog on Jordan.
Draft Resolution (17 December 2014)
Reaffirming its previous resolutions, in particular resolutions 242 (1967); 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), 1544 (2004), 1850 (2008), 1860 (2009) and the Madrid Principles,
Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,
Reaffirming the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,
Recalling General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947,
Reaffirming the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and recalling its resolutions 446 (1979), 452 (1979) and 465 (1980), determining, inter alia, that the policies and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East,
Affirming the imperative of resolving the problem of the Palestine refugees on the basis of international law and relevant resolutions, including resolution 194 (III), as stipulated in the Arab Peace Initiative,
Underlining that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, and calling for a sustainable solution to the situation in the Gaza Strip, including the sustained and regular opening of its border crossings for normal flow of persons and goods, in accordance with international humanitarian law,
Welcoming the important progress in Palestinian state-building efforts recognised by the World Bank and the IMF in 2012 and reiterating its call to all States and international organizations to contribute to the Palestinian institution building programme in preparation for independence,
Reaffirming that a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means, based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement and terror, and the two-State solution, building on previous agreements and obligations and stressing that the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement that ends the occupation that began in 1967, resolves all permanent status issues as previously defined by the parties, and fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both parties,
Condemning all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism, and reminding all States of their obligations under resolution 1373 (2001),
Recalling the obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and ensure their protection in situations of armed conflict,
Reaffirming the right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders,
Noting with appreciation the efforts of the United States in 2013/14 to facilitate and advance negotiations between the parties aimed at achieving a final peace settlement,
Aware of its responsibilities to help secure a long-term solution to the conflict,
1. Affirms the urgent need to attain, no later than 12 months after the adoption of this resolution, a just, lasting and comprehensive peaceful solution that brings an end to the Israeli occupation since 1967 and fulfills the vision of two independent, democratic and prosperous states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security within mutually and internationally recognized borders;
2. Decides that the negotiated solution will be based on the following parameters:
– borders based on 4 June 1967 lines with mutually agreed limited, equivalent land swaps;
– security arrangements, including through a third-party presence, that guarantee and respect the sovereignty of a State of Palestine, including through a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces which will end the occupation that began in 1967 over an agreed transition period in a reasonable timeframe, not to exceed the end of 2017, and that ensure the security of both Israel and Palestine through effective border security and by preventing the resurgence of terrorism and effectively addressing security threats, including emerging and vital threats in the region.
– A just and agreed solution to the Palestine refugee question on the basis of Arab Peace initiative, international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, including resolution 194 (III);
– Jerusalem as the shared capital of the two States which fulfils the legitimate aspirations of both parties and protects freedom of worship;
– an agreed settlement of other outstanding issues, including water;
3. Recognizes that the final status agreement shall put an end to the occupation and an end to all claims and lead to immediate mutual recognition;
4. Affirms that the definition of a plan and schedule for implementing the security arrangements shall be placed at the center of the negotiations within the framework established by this resolution;
5. Looks forward to welcoming Palestine as a full Member State of the United Nations within the timeframe defined in the present resolution;
6. Urges both parties to engage seriously in the work of building trust and to act together in the pursuit of peace by negotiating in good faith and refraining from all acts of incitement and provocative acts or statements, and also calls upon all States and international organizations to support the parties in confidence-building measures and to contribute to an atmosphere conducive to negotiations;
7. Calls upon all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949;
8. Encourages concurrent efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region, which would unlock the full potential of neighborly relations in the Middle East and reaffirms in this regard the importance of the full implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative;
9. Calls for a renewed negotiation framework that ensures the close involvement, alongside the parties, of major stakeholders to help the parties reach an agreement within the established timeframe and implement all aspects of the final status, including through the provision of political support as well as tangible support for post-conflict and peace-building arrangements, and welcomes the proposition to hold an international conference that would launch the negotiations;
10. Calls upon both parties to abstain from any unilateral and illegal actions, including settlement activities, that could undermine the viability of a two-State solution on the basis of the parameters defined in this resolution;
11. Calls for immediate efforts to redress the unsustainable situation in the Gaza Strip, including through the provision of expanded humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and other United Nations agencies and through serious efforts to address the underlying issues of the crisis, including consolidation of the ceasefire between the parties;
12. Requests the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of this resolution every three months;
13. Decides to remain seized of the matter.