France should go ahead with UN move despite Israel's elections

 By Yossi Beilin, i24 News

I believe that the Palestinian decision to put its draft resolution to a vote in the UN Security Council in the last week of December, instead of waiting for a few days for the rotation of the non-permanent members in the Council, was due to a desire to avoid embarrassing the United States. There is little doubt that if the Palestinians would have submitted their statehood bid today, they would have received the needed support of at least nine countries, forcing the Obama Administration to exercise its veto authority. The US government made it clear to the Palestinians that such a move would disrupt ties with the PLO, and President Mahmoud Abbas decided on a rapid move that would ensure he did not meet the required majority.

The question is what France will do now, after having supported the Palestinian bid despite US objections. A proposed tripartite resolution (French, British and German) led by France calls on Israel and the Palestinians to return to the table and finish their final status negotiations within two years, without establishing a defined goal of ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. It is a fair compromise between the Israeli and Palestinian positions. The parameters of the agreement, which are part of the proposal, are a summary of accepted positions in the Israeli peace camp, the Palestinian peace camp and a huge majority of countries in the world. They aren’t innovative or groundbreaking, but these are the principles of any agreement on which the two sides will agree in the future.

A decision to postpone this tripartite proposal until after the March elections in Israel would be very surprising. Such a decision would have a long-term impact in any case, but if it is to be considered in the context of the elections, one should keep in mind that with or without such a resolution, a right-wing government will not even consider it, will not return to the '67 borders with minor modifications, and will reject the establishment of a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. A dovish government, on the other hand, will not need a United Nations resolution to try to reach an agreement on the basis of these principles that have been enshrined in Clinton's parameters in December 2000 and, in more detail, in the 2003 Geneva Initiative.

Pushing forward with the tripartite initiative now could have one of two results: it may delay the Palestinian plans to sue senior Israeli officials at the International Criminal Court (if and when Palestine is accepted as a member); on the other hand, it may also become a controversial election campaign issue, with the right portraying it as a serious danger that must be foiled at all costs, and the left presenting it as a basis for negotiations which it would launch soon after coming to power.

Does this initiative interfere in the Israeli elections? Not at all. Failure to bring the resolution to a vote is a much more significant intervention. What is interference in the elections? It is a change of course due to the scheduling of elections. France initiated the process when the Israeli elections were scheduled to take place in 2017. When it was decided to move the elections up by more than two years, the French considered postponing their move. This is interference, even though no one can say whether a French UN resolution will be vetoed by the US and whether it will result in more votes for one Israeli camp or the other.

The importance of the proposal may lie, as previously mentioned, in preventing Palestinian legal action against Israelis, on the one hand, and the presentation of a most important political issue to Israeli voters, on the other, so that instead of dealing with empty slogans, voters will have to address practical options that enjoy a global consensus. It will oblige the Likud and Labor parties to tell voters how they see a future political settlement, beyond adherence in principle to peace and security.

France found itself having to vote for a draft resolution despite its reservations with the wording. It has a chance to go back to that institution with the tripartite resolution to which the United States does not object and to thereby contribute to advancing the cause which it supports. A postponement until after the elections in Israel would be incomprehensible.

Yossi Beilin is president of the business consulting firm Beilink. In the past he served as a minister in three Israeli governments and as a Member of Knesset for Labor and Meretz. He was one of the pioneers of the Oslo Accords, the Geneva Initiative and Birthright.