The United States on Thursday confirmed it will veto any bid by the Palestinians to seek statehood recognition in the U.N. Security Council. Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats continue an effort to reconvene direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and avert a political showdown at the United Nations later this month.
The veto threat comes as no surprise because the Obama administration has long said that a Palestinian statehood bid - without Israeli concurrence - would set back hopes for real peace.
Despite the U.S. stance, the Palestinian Authority says it is determined to win an upgrade of international recognition when the new U.N. General Assembly convenes in New York in less than two weeks.
In the absence of action in the Security Council due to a U.S. veto, Palestinians can ask the General Assembly to elevate their U.N. status from an observer to a “non-state member.”
The United States has no veto in the General Assembly and analysts say a Palestinian measure there would likely be approved by a wide majority.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland downplayed the significance of making the U.S. veto threat explicit. “It should not come as a shock to anyone in this room that the U.S. opposes a move in New York by the Palestinians to establish a state that can only be achieved through negotiations. So yes, if something comes to a vote in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. will veto,” she said.
In a Middle East policy speech in May, President Obama for the first time called for a two-state Middle East settlement based on Israel’s pre-1967 borders, which is in line with long-held Palestinian demands. But he also said symbolic Palestinian actions at the United Nations will not create an independent state and that efforts to “delegitimize” Israel will end in failure.
The State Department's Victoria Nuland says the United States will continue working, until the U.N. meetings and beyond, to revive the U.S.-sponsored direct peace talks that broke off last year.
“We are seeking a result in the region that is consensual between the two parties, that is lasting, that is durable, that leads to security," said the spokeswoman. "Taking action in New York is going to make that more difficult. You’re going to end up in a situation where you have the two parties on opposite sides in New York. That is not productive. It’s not going to help the environment, the conditions for peace.”
U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale were traveling back to Washington on Thursday after what were depicted as last-ditch talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on resuming the dialogue.
Israel says it would return to the talks, but Palestinians say they will not unless Israel ends settlement building and accepts the 1967 borders as a basis for an accord.
Palestinians say U.N. action does not jeopardize direct negotiations, but Israeli officials say it could provoke violent unrest and scuttle the peace process.