U.S. hopes to not use veto to aid Israel

Palestinian request for statehood at issue

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The Palestinians have yet to lock down a nine-vote majority in the U.N. Security Council for their statehood bid, raising U.S. hopes that it could be spared the embarrassment of using its veto power in defense of an increasingly isolated Israel.

Amid indications that Colombia and the Security Council’s four EU member states will abstain from any vote, attention has focused on Nigeria, Gabon and Bosnia, which have offered few signals about how they will vote.

The Palestinians likely would need the support of all three to obtain the nine-vote majority that would force a U.S. veto in the 15-member council.

“It’s very symbolic,” said Hussein Ibish, senior research fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. “It’s not like there was a plot by the powers of the world to assemble a body where the Palestinians could not get nine votes, so it would be difficult for the Palestinians to say, under those circumstances, that this was just the U.S. protecting Israel again.”

Six council members - Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Africa and Lebanon - have pledged to support the Palestinians’ statehood bid.

The factors weighing on the votes of Nigeria, Bosnia, and Gabon are significant:

• Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is considered a friend of Israel, but he presides over a Muslim-majority country where the Palestinian cause is popular.

Gabon, another West African country, has received Israeli cooperation on agricultural matters.

Bosnia remains internally divided, with its three autonomous governments pulling in different directions. All three are loath to be the one vote that forces the U.S. into a compromising position.

“The truth with the U.N. is you never know until you get to the vote,” said one Israeli diplomatic official. “Countries can make you all sorts of promises.”

Maen Rashid Areikat, the top Palestinian representative to the U.S., told The Washington Times that the Palestinians “want to go beyond” nine votes.

“We’re not just focusing on the ‘swing’ votes,” he said. “We’re talking to the British, the French, the Portuguese, the Germans.”

The council’s 10 nonpermanent members - currently Bosnia, Brazil, Colombia, Gabon, Germany, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa - rotate participation with other countries and can vote on matters before the panel. Only the council’s permanent members - China, Russia, France, Britain and the U.S. - can veto a resolution.

The U.S. has vowed to veto the Palestinians’ resolution, saying that negotiating with Israel is the only way the issue can be resolved.

The European Union has been divided on the Palestinian bid, with Germany and Italy publicly opposing the measure and Spain privately expressing sympathy.

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About the Author

Ben Birnbaum

Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.

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