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Palestinian Authority rejects calls to postpone statehood bid

Published time: November 24, 2012 19:31
Edited time: November 25, 2012 18:06
Palestinian students wave their flag following a speech by President Mahmud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 25, 2012 (AFP Photo / Abbas Momani)

Palestinian students wave their flag following a speech by President Mahmud Abbas at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 25, 2012 (AFP Photo / Abbas Momani)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he intends on pressing forward with a statehood bid at the United Nations next week. He has turned down requests from the US, Britain, Germany and France to delay the bid.

Abbas will formally request that the UN General Assembly upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) status from observer to nonmember state on November 29. The Assembly will be asked to vote on the measure.

“There is nothing that stops us from obtaining the status of non-member observer…we are sure that the countries of the free world will support us,” Abbas said in a statement.

“We are fully confident in our steps. We will have our rights because you are with us," the leader said during a speech in Ramallah, West Bank on Sunday.

Palestinian officials told Al-Ayyam news that they hoped the recent Israeli Defense Forces operation in Gaza would encourage countries to vote in favor of upgrading the PA's status.

Officials said they would spend the coming days attempting to persuade European Union governments to vote in favor of the bid. The PA is, however, expecting most EU countries to abstain during the vote.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs the support of European and Arab nations, as well as the United States.

He said the two sides may be coming to the final chance for a two-state solution.

“It is time for a huge effort on the Middle East peace process…I’ve been calling on the United States…to show the necessary leadership on this in the coming months because they have crucial leverage with Israel which no other country has,” Hague said.

The PA said it expects the Assembly to vote two-thirds in favor of granting the PA nonmember status.

President Mahmud Abbas gives a speech at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 25, 2012 (AFP Photo / Abbas Momani)
President Mahmud Abbas gives a speech at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 25, 2012 (AFP Photo / Abbas Momani)

Unsurprisingly, the US is not expected to be part of that two-thirds bloc.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said earlier this week that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Abbas that Palestinians “would destroy themselves politically” by pressing forward with the bid.

Last year, the US used its veto power to block a similar Palestinian statehood bid at the UN Security Council. However, no country has veto power in the General Assembly.

Erekat has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of undermining the PA in order to maintain control of the West Bank, while trying to push Gaza politically closer to Egypt.

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

Hana Amireh, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee, said that the statehood bid has become “very urgent” after Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. She said the assault “mobilized widespread support for the Palestinians.”

­Earlier Sunday, Abbas made it clear that the UN was not the last stop – but rather just the beginning – of his plan. 

He said the move would be followed by steps to bridge the political divide between his Fateh movement and rival Hamas.

"Today, the UN. After that, reconciliation, and after that, our own state," he said.

Israel has called on Palestine to resume negotiations instead of turning to the UN, but the PA does not intend on granting the request.

“What you need to stop is not the Palestinian efforts at the UN, what you need to stop are these settlement activities that are destroying and undermining the possibility of a two-state solution,” Erekat said in a statement.

Israel stepped up settlement construction and withheld funds to the Palestinian government last year. The US withheld funds as well, and has threatened to do so again if Abbas goes through with his plan.

The Israeli embassy in Washington, DC has launched a series of YouTube videos portraying Abbas as an irresponsible leader who doesn’t want to take part in negotiations.

Screenshot from YouTube @IsraelEmbDC
Screenshot from YouTube @IsraelEmbDC

One of the videos, titled ‘A Dinner for Peace: An Open Invitation to Palestinian President Abbas,’ shows US President Barack Obama at a dinner table with world leaders.

They are patiently waiting for the last dinner guest to arrive – Mahmoud Abbas. After a few exasperated sighs, the phone finally rings. Obama answers the call.

Screenshot from YouTube @IsraelEmbDC
Screenshot from YouTube @IsraelEmbDC

Abbas tells Obama that he is on the way to the UN and not coming to dinner. The video ends with a message that says, “We need to save peace. Tell President Abbas to come back to the table."

Abbas says the UN move is not aimed at replacing peace talks, but that Palestine must merely look for other ways to establish an independent state in the West Bank, after a history of failed talks.

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