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Mon 15 Dec 2014 12:08 PM

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Washington undecided on UN resolution for Palestinian state

Israel seeks US veto of proposed Palestinian resolution

Washington undecided on UN resolution for Palestinian state
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Getty Images)

Israel said it hoped the United States would veto
any moves at the United Nations to set a time frame for its withdrawal from
territory Palestinians seek for a state, but a senior US official said it was
too early to say.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday to discuss various
proposals for a Palestinian state that are circulating at the United Nations.

Later on Monday, 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 United States 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, and the Palestinians said on
Monday they could submit it in the coming days.

France, Britain and Germany are discussing another
proposal, but a senior US official said there was no consensus among them and
the United States 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, time frame
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 that 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."

A statement issued after a Palestinian leadership
meeting convened by President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah said the resolution
will be submitted to the UN Security Council after Kerry's meeting with the
Arab League delegation.

A Palestinian official who spoke to Reuters on
condition of anonymity said the resolution will be presented on Wednesday.

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 United States "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 United States 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.

If the United States pushes the Europeans to wait
until after Israel's elections, the Jordanians could put forward the
Palestinian-drafted resolution for a vote in January. Netanyahu said the
resolution and its two-year deadline were dangerous.

"This will bring the radical Islamic elements
to the suburbs of Tel Aviv and to the heart of Jerusalem," he told his
cabinet. We will not allow this. We will rebuff this forcefully and responsibly.
Let there be no doubt, this will be rejected."

The US official indicated Washington did not think
the Palestinian draft was acceptable.

"The Palestinian draft through the Jordanians
contains a hard deadline for the withdrawal from the West Bank of two years, so
that is not the way we would look at handling a very complicated security
negotiation by simply mandating a flat deadline of two years," the
official said.

Israeli officials, who asked not to be identified,
said Israel was wary of any resolution that would lay down a timetable for
either talks or a withdrawal.

Netanyahu has said rocket fire from the Gaza Strip
during a 50-day war with Hamas militants in July and August highlighted the
risks Israel could face in handing over more Palestinian territory.

In Jerusalem, violence has surged in recent weeks
because of a dispute over access to a holy site in an Israeli-annexed part of
the city. Eleven Israelis and 12 Palestinians have been killed.

In Gaza, Hamas paraded some 2,000 of its armed fighters
and truck-mounted rockets on Sunday, marking its 27th anniversary with its
biggest show of force since the end of the Gaza war this summer.

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