Palestinians take statehood bid to UN gates

Palestinians take statehood bid to UN gates

The Palestinians will take their long march for statehood to the gates of the United Nations next week in a bid to have their state accepted as a full member in the world body.

By (AFP)

Published: Thu 15 Sep 2011, 12:44 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:41 AM

The controversial diplomatic campaign, which was sparked by the collapse of peace talks with Israel late last year, is adamantly opposed by both Israel and the United States who say the only route to a Palestinian state is through bilateral negotiations.

The plan has also caused divisions in the Europe Union where many of the 27 member states are concerned about the legal implications of backing such a step.

But the Palestinians appear determined to push ahead with the move to secure UN membership for a state based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, including Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is expected next week to present a membership request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who will pass it on to the 15-member Security Council for examination.

Palestinian officials say they are not planning on unilaterally declaring a state as they did in Algiers in 1988, nor are they seeking UN recognition for their state, which has already been recognised by 127 countries.

Their aim is to be accepted into the United Nations as the 194th member state — a move the United States has vowed to veto in the Security Council.

The Palestinians say UN acceptance of their state will change the rules of engagement vis-a-vis peace talks with Israel, with the Jewish state being viewed as one UN member state occupying another.

But world powers seeking to avoid a head-on confrontation at the Security Council are pushing the Palestinians to instead approach the General Assembly with a draft resolution calling for their status to be upgraded from “observer” to “non-member state.”

So far, Abbas’s entourage insist the Palestinians will seek full membership and 11th-hour attempts by Washington to lure them back to some form of peace talks and thereby avoid the UN step have, until now, fallen on deaf ears.

“We are going to the Security Council to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and the idea of a two-state solution,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.

“We don’t want problems with the US administration but we are committed to negotiations based on the 1967 lines and a freeze on settlements,” he said.

With Europe divided over the move, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has been leading efforts to find a solution which would avoid a showdown but ensure that the Palestinians do not leave New York empty handed.

She met earlier this week with Abbas in Cairo and with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem.

In June, Ashton suggested Brussels was seeking some kind of resolution at the General Assembly which could be worded in such a way that it would gain the support of all 27 EU member states.

Upgrading their status to non-member state — the so-called “Vatican option” — could be one such compromise.

It would allow the Palestinians to become a full member of UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation, the child welfare agency UNICEF and the UNESCO world heritage body.

It could also speed up Palestinian attempts to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, thereby opening the door to legal action against Israel over the occupation.

The Palestinians say the campaign does not rule out a return to peace negotiations, and acceptance into the UN would put them on a more equitable footing when facing Israel in any future negotiations.

But they insist there will be no further talks unless Israel halts settlement construction and agrees to accept the 1967 borders as the basis for any future negotiations.

Israel has for months been pushing a diplomatic initiative to secure as many “no” votes as possible, although senior officials doubt it this will head off the “diplomatic tsunami” likely to face the Jewish state.

On the ground, Israeli soldiers and police are on a war footing, bracing for any outbreak of violence in the territories or along the borders with neighbouring Arab countries as the diplomatic drama plays out in New York.

Jewish settlers are also gearing up for a potentially violent confrontation with Palestinian demonstrators, although Palestinian officials insist their campaign of support will be entirely peaceful.

The diplomatic strategy to secure UN membership was first raised in 2010 after direct talks with Israel fell apart just weeks after they were launched at the White House in early September.

Talks collapsed after the expiry of an Israeli 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement building, with the Palestinians refusing to negotiate while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.

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