Tensions are rising ahead of a UN Security Council vote Friday night over the Palestinian proposal to condemn Israel over the continued construction in the settlements.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected an American request to withdraw or soften the proposal, his spokesman said Friday afternoon. Earlier, the Palestinian Authority sent out a clear message to Washington – calling on the US to allow the vote to go ahead.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Friday that if the US would veto the condemnation of settlement construction it would "prove that the US supports Israel's illegal moves in opposition to the opinion of 130 UN member states."
Washington rejects the intentions to discuss the issue in the UN Security Council as a derivative of its opposition to 'UN-ifying' the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In efforts to prevent the move, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and tried, unsuccessfully, to convince him to reconsider the UN move.
Later, US President Barack Obama joined the fray himself. He spent almost an hour speaking to Abbas on the phone and suggested an outline for compromise. He suggested that Abbas change the format of the condemnation to include only settlements in which Israel has been asked to halt construction.
He also suggested that Abbas call for negotiations over the 1967 borders for a Palestinian state, rather than the current format, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state within these borders, officials said.
As a result of US pressure, Abbas convened a meeting in Ramallah that focused on whether to accept US demands or bring the settlement condemnation issue to a UN vote. However, as noted, the Palestinians have decided to reject Obama's request.
Friday's vote puts the Obama administration in a difficult position because a veto would anger the Palestinians and its many supporters around the world, while an abstention would anger the Israelis. Either way, the US vote could complicate efforts to resume direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, especially at this sensitive time of widespread anti-government protests in the Mideast.
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