Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Francois Hollande, hold a press conference after their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on April 15, 2016. (AFP/Dominique Faget)

PA to freeze UN resolution on settlements in wake of French pressure

PNN/Ramallah

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is leaning toward freezing its effort to secure a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) draft resolution condemning new Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem following pressure from France and other countries, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources.

In the beginning of April, the PA distributed a draft resolution condemning the construction of new Israeli settlements to a number of members of the UN Security Council, according to Western diplomats and senior Palestinian officials.

Following its peace talk initiatives, the French government was pressing the PA to suspend the effort on the grounds stating that it will undermine its attempts to convene an international peace conference this summer, according to senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.

A senior official in Jerusalem, who asked to remain anonymous due to diplomatic sensitivity, said that information reaching Israel had indicated that France’s ambassador to the United Nations, Francois Delattre, informed his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Mansour, of the problems involved in promoting a Security Council resolution against the new Israeli settlements at this time, according to Haaretz.

“The opportunity to go to the Security Council will always be there and we want to give a chance to the French initiative because, in the end, this is an initiative that serves us and not one that hurts us,” the Palestinian figure said.

The issue also came up in a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris last Friday between French President Francois Hollande and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas, by his part, supports the French initiative and wants to take advantage of the United States’ distancing itself from the Israeli-Palestinian issue to increase the involvement of other countries and convene an international peace conference.

However, in light of the French pressure, Abbas has changed his statements regarding promotion of the draft resolution over the past few days.

In a press conference after his meeting with Hollande, as well as in a press conference Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Abbas intimated that the PA might not push for a vote in the Security Council.

He said the Palestinian leadership was continuing its consultations with Arab countries to set the most a suitable time to move ahead with a draft resolution on the settlements.

Abbas, who was to fly to New York , will meet with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan Saudi Arabia and perhaps other Arab countries today to discuss its move in the Security Council.

Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials said that the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Saudis are not keen to move the draft resolution ahead at this time.

Israel is gratified by the French pressure on the Palestinians, but there is anger in Jerusalem at the French vote in favor of a resolution promoted by the Palestinians in UNESCO last week condemning Israel for its actions in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a fan of the French initiative for an international peace conference.

In a briefing for political correspondents on Monday, he remarked cynically: “Can somebody explain to me what is included in the French initiative? So far I don’t understand and I’m not sure the French understand.”

Netanyahu’s skepticism is shared by the United States. According to Haaretz, senior American officials said that so far they have received no clear details of the content of the French initiative and they have heard only general and vague descriptions from the French ambassador to the United States, Pierre Vimont, who is in charge of organizing the conference.

French diplomats said that Vimont has devoted the past month to consultations with several countries on the French initiative and he is expected to submit a report in a few days to French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault with recommendations on how to move the initiative ahead.

France’s next move is to convene a meeting of senior diplomats in Paris in May in preparation for the international conference.