Kerry's Miscalculation At--And About--The U.N.

It is wrong to believe that global pressure helps Netanyahu win reelection. The opposite is the case.
On December 18th, John Kerry told a luncheon gathering of twenty-eight European Union ambassadors that Washington would not support, or even discuss, any United Nations resolution on Palestine before the Israeli elections on March 17th. The remarks were ostensibly private, though it is hard to believe twenty-eight ambassadors were expected not to talk. (Foreign Policy reported on the meeting the following day.) Kerry was referring to two resolutions. The first, drafted by the Palestinian Authority and presented by Jordan, failed to gain nine votes in the Security Council last night. There were eight votes in favor, including Russia, China, and France; two opposed, the U.S. and Australia; and five abstentions. Nigeria’s last-minute abstention was reportedly secured by a conversation between Kerry and President Goodluck Jonathan.

The defeated resolution reflected familiar P.A. positions on core issues, such as immediate recognition of Palestinian statehood, Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, and a three-year deadline to end the occupation of the West Bank. Think of it as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s last-ditch effort, at seventy-nine, to prove his diplomatic standing to a skeptical West Bank street, after months of reciprocal violence between Israel and Hamas during which Abbas seemed only a bystander. Today, Abbas moved to join the International Criminal Court, where Israeli leaders could be charged with violations of the Geneva Conventions, a measure that he had threatened to take if the resolution failed. (Netanyahu had previously countered that a move to the I.C.C. could lead Israel to dismantle the Palestinian Authority.)

But Kerry was actually responding to a second, less imminent resolution, a French initiative reflecting the European Union’s determination to help Abbas without adopting his positions. This resolution would notionally offer symbolic recognition to Palestine and establish principles for a peace agreement, culled from past negotiations and the Arab League peace plan from 2003. (On December 17th, the European Parliament voted to recognize a Palestinian state, four hundred and ninety-eight to eighty-eight, with eleven abstentions.) E.U. diplomats assumed that their own resolution would supersede the P.A.’s, if only Kerry would commit to supporting it and agree to help draft it, ideally incorporating his own unpublished framework from last spring.

Kerry’s statements at the luncheon were meant to dampen this hope. He was prepared to veto both resolutions on Palestine, he made clear, though he added, tantalizingly, that he might “ultimately support some sort of Security Council resolution that didn’t prejudge the outcome of stalled political negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.” His real message was in his “ultimately”; by inference, the U.S. might support a resolution sometime after the Israeli elections. Kerry had consulted with, among others, former Israeli Justice Minister and peace negotiator Tzipi Livni, who has allied with Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog to run against Benjamin Netanyahu. Livni urged Kerry to oppose both resolutions, even if one could be made consistent with Kerry’s own framework, and he agreed. Any “text imposed by the international community” would reinforce Netanyahu and “further embolden the more right-wing forces along the Israeli political spectrum,” he told the ambassadors.

Read on at The New Yorker