Seeking UN membership anew
Trying desperately to salvage the Palestinian national dream of establishing a viable Palestinian state in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is planning to formally ask the United Nations to recognise “Palestine” as a member-state of the international organisation.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the highest political representative of the Palestinian people, has observer status at the UN.
A formal application will be submitted to the UN General Assembly on 27 September. The PA says as many as 133 states recognise Palestine, hence a decision at the UN in favour of the Palestinian bid is likely, save last-minute glitches.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the PA was serious about seeking UN membership despite Israeli threats and American objections.
During a lengthy speech in Ramallah Sunday, Abbas voiced mounting frustration at Israeli intransigence and dishonesty vis-Ã-vis the peace process. “There are many pressures and hurdles, but we will go the United Nations,” he said.
Abbas said the ongoing political deadlock was leaving the Palestinians no other choice. “We are only asking the Israelis to honour their own commitments, but they refuse.”
Abbas gave a pessimistic prognosis of the declared stands of the Binyamin Netanyahu government, saying Israel was viewing the occupied territories not as “occupied” but as “disputed land”. He added that Israel was demanding a military presence along the Jordan Valley for at least 40 years. He said the Palestinians would never accept these demands.
“We have two choices, either we go, or we don’t go. If we don’t go, the entire Palestinian cause will fall into oblivion,” Abbas said.
Last week, Israel warned the PA against applying for UN membership. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel would retaliate against the step. Lieberman previously accused the Abbas leadership of “indulging in political and diplomatic terrorism against Israel”.
Abbas alluded that Israel might eliminate him, as it eliminated other Palestinian leaders, a possible allusion to the mysterious death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
“But there is one thing I want you to be sure of: We are staying put here. We will not leave, and we will not make the mistake of 1948 once again.
Arab states, including Egypt, are backing the PA bid to obtain UN membership. In the past, the United States used the Mubarak regime to restrain and bully the PA against making moves without Israeli and US consent.
In September 2011, the PA made a high-profile effort to obtain full member status at the UN. However, the request was not put to a vote in the Security Council where the US pledged to veto it.
On Monday, 11 September, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Obama administration still believed that the only “realistic path” for Palestinian statehood was through direct negotiations.
Nuland said the US was trying to dissuade PA President Abbas from seeking full member status at the UN. “We are working intensively through the Quartet and directly with Israelis and Palestinians to continue to encourage them to come back to the table. All we can do is push them. We cannot force them. They have got to make the decision for peace. They’ve got to make the decision to come back to the table,” Nuland said.
Palestinians, who have been negotiating with Israel for nearly two decades but without making any real progress toward liberation from the entrenched Israeli occupation, are in no mood to listen to regurgitated remarks and platitudes repeated on the benefits of direct negotiations.
“How can we keep negotiating with Israel while Israel keeps stealing and carving out our land? It is unfair for the United States, Israel’s guardian ally, to tell the criminal and the victim to sort it out amongst them. Yet, this is what the US is telling us in real terms,” said Ghassan Khatib, former head of the government press office.
Khatib said the American stand of telling the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel without clearly determining the shape of a would-be settlement, including the exact borders of the prospective Palestinian state, was tantamount to pressuring the Palestinians to capitulate to Israeli demands.
“Remember, it is the US that provides Israel with the tools and wherewithal that enables Israel to adopt a rejectionist stand,” he said.
The Obama administration has been trying to appease Israel as part of a public relations showdown with Republican candidate Mitt Romney ahead of November’s US presidential elections.
Romney has been accusing the administration of not sufficiently backing Israel despite Obama’s repeated pronouncements asserting absolute and almost unlimited support for Tel Aviv, including commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge over actual and potential foes combined.
Israel, which has been squeezing and blackmailing the Obama administration for more concessions on Iran, has succeeded in getting Washington to demote the Palestinian issue to secondary status.
The PA had received vague promises from the Obama administration suggesting that President Obama would devote more time and energy to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict if elected to a second term in the White House.
Most Palestinians dismiss such promises for two reasons: first, overwhelming Jewish influence in the US Congress, often described as “an Israeli occupied territory”; second, the conviction of many observers that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unresolvable based on the two-state solution strategy, in light of the phenomenal expansion of Jewish colonies in the West Bank, especially East Jerusalem.