Abbas firm on UN 
nod for statehood

RAMALLAH - After Hamas held its own in a fierce battle with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has no choice but to override US objections and seek UN recognition of a state of Palestine next week, his aides said on Friday.

By (AP)

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Published: Sun 25 Nov 2012, 8:53 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:02 PM

But even such recognition, likely to be granted, may not be enough for him to stay relevant and counter the soaring popularity of Hamas.

Abbas — formally the leader of all Palestinians but only in charge in parts of the West Bank — was in trouble even before being relegated to the role of spectator as Israel and Hamas fought for eight days, starting on November 14, then negotiated a truce with the help of Egypt that could lead to easing Israel’s long-standing Gaza border blockade. By comparison, years of effort by Abbas to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state with Israel have led nowhere.

His West Bank government has been buckling under the worst cash crisis in its 18-year existence, sparking widespread domestic discontent. And Hamas, which seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, emerged from regional isolation after the Arab Spring uprisings brought its parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, to power in key countries, including Egypt.

The Gaza fighting sharpened trends already evident before, said analyst Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group think tank. “Abbas was truly isolated before this, and this (Gaza) conflict looks like a disaster for him,” he said.

Abbas had hoped the UN bid will allow him to seize the initiative after years of diplomatic paralysis. Under the plan, the UN General Assembly would approve “Palestine” as a non-member observer state.

Palestine is far from being established, but UN recognition would affirm its future borders and enable the Palestinians to join UN organisations. Israel, backed by the Obama administration, opposes the UN bid.

Abbas says he’s willing to resume talks once the 1967 borders have been recognised as the baseline, something radical Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to do. Israel, while willing to cede some land, says it will not withdraw to the 1967 lines, and has instead moved half a million Israelis into illegal settlements built on occupied land.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again urged Abbas in a meeting at his West Bank headquarters to drop the UN plan, said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat. However, Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, told Clinton and other recent visitors, including the French and German foreign ministers, that he is determined to move ahead.

Israel’s Gaza offensive “actually pushed Abu Mazen to go to the UN”, Erekat said.

Erekat accused Netanyahu of systematically undermining the Palestinian Authority in order to keep his grip on the West Bank, while trying to push Gaza closer to Egypt. The West Bank and Gaza lie on opposite sides of Israel which has prevented virtually all travel and trade between the two territories.

“To stop this strategy, the only avenue is to go to the UN, and place Palestine as a geographic entity, as a state,” Erekat said.

Abbas is seeking the UN vote next Thursday and is expected to win the needed simple majority of those present, his aides say.

The Palestinians can count on support from Arab, Muslim and many developing and non-aligned countries.

They have been courting European Union member states, many of them sceptical, but it’s not clear if they’ve made inroads there.

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