WASHINGTON – The framework agreement with Iran has prompted the French to press the United States to reverse previous opposition to a resolution in the United Nations Security Council establishing a Palestinian state.
Building on the momentum created from the Iranian nuclear framework agreement, which is supposed to be completed by the end of June, France hope the U.S. will go along with a resolution it has drafted.
The French, along with the U.S., Britain, Russia, China and Germany, are involved in the negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program to avoid further sanctions or military action.
According to U.N. expert Sophie Pilgrim, who also writes for Al-Monitor, the French believe their plan could “further cement” Obama’s “legacy in diplomacy.”
Until now, the Israelis have taken the lead along with the U.S. in opposing U.N. intervention, believing that such a result should grow out of bilateral discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.
Pilgrim says the French are preparing a new Security Council resolution on negotiations that would seek to enforce a two-state solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But to succeed, the French “need the cooperation of Israel’s traditional guardian, the United States, which has so far sent mixed signals on the issue,” Pilgrim said.
Last December, the U.S. vetoed a similar French draft resolution. However, observers say the U.S. could be taking a renewed interest in the French approach because of the pre-election pledge by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that he would not support a Palestinian state during his tenure.
Netanyahu was re-elected and seemed to backtrack on his pre-election pledge but not sufficiently to convince the Obama administration, sources say. In response, Obama threatened to “reassess our options” on the longstanding conflict.
According to Pilgrim, U.S. diplomats had told their French and British counterparts at the U.N. that the U.S. would consider the U.N. resolution if the new Israeli government under Netanyahu showed it was opposed to a two-state solution.
In recent weeks, there have been indications among diplomats that the U.S. is prepared to take on the other intractable Middle East conflict if successful in reaching a final agreement with the Iranians at the end of June on its nuclear program.
“I like to think that now this deal has been signed, Secretary of State John Kerry will have the time and momentum to try to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Dina Kawear, Jordan’s permanent representative to the U.N.
France’s enthusiasm, however, could be dampened in light of comments Obama made following the announcement of the Iranian nuclear framework agreement.
Obama called for a doubling down on cooperative defense measures between the U.S. and Israel, looked upon partially as an effort to placate critics that the agreement was an abandonment of the security arrangement between the U.S. and Israel.
“The U.S. wants to diminish Israeli opposition to the deal with Iran,” said Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations. “One way may be to be less supportive of the French initiative at the U.N., at least in the short term. The (Obama) administration will want to demonstrate to Israel and its supporters that the U.S. has Israel’s back.”
On the other hand, Danin said the U.S. isn’t opposed to working with the French on such a resolution.
“There may be elements in the French draft that might be problematic,” Danin said, “but I think the Americans are willing to engage, and I expect the French would be willing to amend accordingly.”
The draft French resolution reportedly calls for an agreement to include borders based on the 1967 lines with some “mutually agreed” and “limited” land swaps, withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian territories and the sharing of Jerusalem as the capital of the nation-states of Israel and Palestine.
The Israelis remain opposed to returning to the pre-1967 borders.
The draft reportedly refers to an Israeli demand that Israel be recognized as a “Jewish state,” which the Palestinians have refused to do.
“If we want to have a two-state solution, and if we want to avoid a complete crash, we must go in the same direction,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a news conference last week at the U.N. “I hope the partners who were reluctant in the past will not be so in the future.”
The French draft is said to be based on U.N. Resolution 181, dating back to Nov. 29, 1947, which provided for the establishment of two separate states. Called the partition plan, Israel accepted the deal, but the Arab governments rejected it and went to war against Israel. It would have created an independent Palestinian state on 52 percent of historic Palestine.
The current proposal is said to call for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, creating a Palestinian state on 22 percent of the area.
“We don’t and we won’t give up on this,” said Francois Delattre, French ambassador to the U.N.
Fabius, at his news conference last week, wouldn’t say when France would bring up the draft measure before the Security Council.
“We shall work in that direction, yes – our aim is to be efficient,” he said, and would consult with other Security Council members in the near future. Such consultation is seen as putting even more pressure on the U.S. to act.
When such a resolution came before the U.N. Security Council the last time, only the U.S. vetoed it. France, Britain, Russia and China all approved.