Abbas lays out Palestine UN bid

PLO chairman delivers key address in Ramallah in run-up to bid for full recognition at the United Nations.

abbas at arab league meeting in cairo

Palestinians are set to push forward with a bid for full membership of the UN, with Mahmoud Abbas, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), delivering a key speech in Ramallah on Friday.

Describing a “sovereign, independent state” as the “legitimate right” of the Palestinian people, Abbas outlined the details of the bid, which will be made via a direct request to the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Abbas said the Palestinians needed to “take on the legal status of the occupation, not of Israel itself”.

He is expected to hand in an application in person to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, on Monday, ahead of the UN General Assembly’s 66th session.

Abbas is acting in his capacity as chairman of the PLO, not as the president of the PA, in a bid that Washington has repeatedly said it would veto at the UNSC.

US against UN vote

The latest Palestinian assertion that they will push forward with the UN vote comes as a senior US diplomatic team was in the region to attempt to dissuade the PLO leadership from doing so in favour of restarting peace talks.

Palestinian Americans hold rallies in New York City in support of the UN bid

“The Palestinians will not and cannot achieve statehood through a declaration at the United Nations. It is a distraction, and in fact, it’s counterproductive,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said.

He said that “the only way to resolve the issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and to ultimately create a Palestinian state, is through direct negotiations.”

“We understand the crux of [Abbas’] speech, the headline of the speech is going to be ‘this is the moment of truth for the Palestinian people and for Palestine’,” reported Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry from Ramallah on Friday.

“We expect President Abbas to really talk about the roadmap and all the steps that have led up to this moment, saying the UN is now the only option for the Palestinian people, sitting down at the table has failed before, and that it will fail again. And that negotiations prove themselves to be not an acceptable route for the Palestinian people,” he reported.

Clash in Qusra

Meanwhile, a Palestinian man was seriously wounded after being shot and an Israeli settler was stabbed in the West Bank, near Qusra, a Palestinian village south of Nablus, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.

Around a dozen settlers who were trying to enter the village were stopped by residents, who, fearing an attack, began to beat them, Palestinian officials said.

A settler pulled out a pistol and shot a Palestinian in the leg during the clash.

An Israeli military spokesperson said that the incident took place in a “disputed area” outside Qusra, and involved people from the nearby settlement of Esh Hakodesh.

She confirmed that the Israeli military had sent reinforcements to the area.

‘Confrontational position’

Riad Malki, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, said on Thursday that the US stance risks putting the country in a “confrontational position” with the rest of the world.

“I don’t know what it means to the standing of the US in the United Nations and among the countries of the world,” he said.

Nevertheless, the Palestinians have left the door open for compromise, with Malki saying that the PA is willing to listen to suggestions from US envoys.

Riyad Mansour, the permanent observer for Palestine at the UN, says that a final decision on whether to pursue recognition in the Security Council or to seek a lesser, symbolic status has not yet been made.

“The final decision will be taken in the next few days as to which path we will follow,” Mansour said.

Asked about Abbas’ comments in Ramallah, he said: “There are many words from many places, but what I’m telling you is that we are deliberating all these details and it is not yet finalised.”

The Palestinians are seeking international recognition of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has rejected a complete pullout from the West Bank, and also says that Israel will not divide Jerusalem, the eastern part of which the Palestinians also wish to use as their capital.

While a UN vote will not change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians believe that it will improve their position in any future negotiations.

Malki argued that Israel could help its eroding diplomatic relations in the region if it agrees to accept the existence of a Palestinian state.

“I think the best way out for Israel today is to come forward and to recognise the state of Palestine on the 1967 borders,” Malki said.

In recent months Israel has seen ties with allies Egypt, Turkey and Jordan sour.

US President Barack Obama has endorsed the 1967 lines as a basis for a settlement of the issue.

Visiting diplomats

David Hale and Dennis Ross, both US envoys, were the latest in a string of senior diplomats in the region to try to persuade the Palestinians to cancel their UN bid and salvage peace talks.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and now an envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the US, UN, EU and Russia, have both held talks with the Palestinian leadership in recent days.

EU diplomats in Brussels said that Ashton had pushed for an approach that involves returning to the negotiating table, while leaving the option for full UN recognition open. In the meantime, the Palestinians could request “non-member state” observer status, as opposed to its current status as “entity”.

“We know there’s been back room bargaining going on, but the Palestinians really have been sticking to their line, no matter what the threat is,  even if it’s a financial threat – and this is what the US has said in the past, that it could pull funding,” reported Al Jazeera’s Perry.

While largely symbolic, the Palestinians are guaranteed to win a vote in the chamber of the UNGA, which is dominated by developing countries sympathetic to their cause. The Palestinians say that about 130 countries have already pledged to support any move for full recognition.

Malki would not go into specifics on what would be required in order to stop the Palestinians from pursuing their UN bid. He said only that it would require a “firm base with clear terms of reference, a clear timetable and with a clear end game”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies