US Secretary of State John Kerry meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome today to discuss various proposals for a Palestinian state that are circulating at the UN.
Later today, Kerry will travel to Paris for talks with European counterparts and then on to London to meet Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and a delegation from the Arab League, who will urge the US not to use its UN Security Council veto to block the proposals.
The hastily-arranged meetings suggested urgency in America’s drive to manage efforts among Security Council members to draft a new proposal before Israeli elections in March. Kerry said on Friday he wanted to defuse tensions during the talks.
Jordan has circulated a draft Palestinian resolution to the 15-member UN Security Council calling for Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory to end by November 2016.
France, Britain and Germany are discussing another proposal, but a senior US official said there was no consensus among them and the US had not been asked to take a position.
A senior Western diplomat said the Europeans were aiming for a consensus resolution devising a binding, unspecified, timeframe and felt the Americans were now open to that possibility.
“There is a window of opportunity now, there is a willingness from them to consider … options at the Security Council,” the diplomat said.
But a senior US state department official said Washington had not yet decided a Security Council resolution was the right way to go.
“These things are all very much in flux, it’s not as if we’re being asked to take a position on any particular Security Council resolution right now. It would be premature for us to discuss documents that are of uncertain status right now.”
Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told reporters: “I assume an anti-Israeli proposal will draw a US veto. That’s how it’s always been, and that’s what we hope will happen.”
But Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, speaking on Army Radio, said it appeared the US “is not eager to use its veto” on the Palestinian statehood issue but was seeking “maximum coordination” with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu and Washington have clashed frequently over Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, leading to Israeli media speculation that a frustrated US could soften its opposition to unilateral statehood steps.
The senior US official said the common objective was to reduce tensions and try to coordinate with the various parties. “We all want to keep open the hope of a two-state solution and we all want to prevent to the best of our abilities an escalation of the violence on the ground,” the official said.
Unilateral efforts at the UN by Palestinians to form their own state in the occupied West Bank and the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, follow the collapse in April of peace negotiations with Israel brokered by Kerry.