posted on Thu 15 Dec 2016 6:24 PM
Middle East Meeting and Draft Resolutions

Tomorrow (16 December), the Security Council will meet for its monthly briefing and consultations on the situation in the Middle East, with a focus on Israel/Palestine. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will brief in the chamber, and Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov will brief in consultations. Several members are expected to make statements in the open chamber tomorrow, and are likely to present their positions on two possible draft resolutions, one drafted by New Zealand and the other by Palestine.

New Zealand has for several months been considering a draft resolution focused on preserving the two-state solution and getting the two sides back to negotiations. It had attempted to rally support around a resolution aimed at restarting the stalled negotiations last year. However, that initiative faced opposition from the US, as well as from both parties. Last week, it shared a new draft text with Council members, which was discussed at an informal meeting at permanent representative-level on 13 December.

The draft reiterates the vision of a region where Israel and Palestine live in peace within secure and recognised borders and declares that the two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace. It calls upon both parties to establish a firm timetable for their early return to negotiations, and to refrain from setting preconditions for the resumption of negotiations. It further calls on the parties to take action related to the three major impediments to a lasting peace and two-state solution outlined by the July 2016 report of the Middle East Quartet: settlements, violence and incitement, and Gaza.

New Zealand has been consulting with the parties, as well as the US, on the draft, and had hoped to allow the Palestinians to pursue their own draft resolution on settlements prior to presenting their initiative. However, with New Zealand and several other interested members leaving the Council at the end of the month, New Zealand decided it could no longer postpone a discussion on action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These members also view the period before the inauguration of the new US President on 20 January as a rare window during which the outgoing President, Barrack Obama, may allow the adoption of a resolution on this highly contentious issue.

During the meeting, it appears that New Zealand conveyed its openness to amendments and additions to its text. It indicated that it was amenable to pursuing either a more robust text outlining parameters for a peace deal, or a text that focuses on a limited aspect of the conflict, such as a resolution condemning settlements. It appears that some members expressed the view that if there is indeed currently a small window of opportunity for the Council to agree on an outcome, attempting a more substantive and actionable resolution would be desirable. Most Council members expressed their support for any text that aims to bolster the prospects of achieving a two-state solution, and the majority of members also conveyed their preference for adopting a text before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians have been interested in presenting a resolution on Israeli settlement activities to the Council for several months. The draft, which would be tabled by Egypt as the Arab Group representative in the Council, is apparently similar to a resolution condemning settlements that the US vetoed in 2011, in the lone veto cast by the Obama administration thus far. The draft reaffirms that all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace on the basis of the two-state solution. It also states that continuing settlement activities imperil the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, and that the cessation of all settlement activity is essential for salvaging the two-state solution. The Palestinian draft is expected to be discussed by members of the League of Arab States in the coming days.

While no concrete action on either of these texts is expected tomorrow, the meeting will afford Council members another opportunity to highlight the options for a way forward.