Image: SeanPavonePhoto / Shutterstock.com
UN set to recognise Palestinian 'state'
United Nations, November 29, 2012
The UN General Assembly is set to implicitly recognise a sovereign state of Palestine on Thursday despite threats by the US and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding much-needed funds for the West Bank government.
A Palestinian resolution that would change the Palestinian Authority's UN observer status from "entity" to "non-member state," like the Vatican, is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation UN General Assembly.
Israel, the US and a handful of other members are planning to vote against what they see as a largely symbolic and counterproductive move by the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been leading the campaign to win support for the resolution, and over a dozen European governments have offered him their support after an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel's destruction and oppose his efforts toward a negotiated peace.
The US State Department said on Wednesday that Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and US Middle East peace envoy David Hale traveled to New York on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to get Abbas to reconsider.
The Palestinians gave no sign they were turning back.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated to reporters in Washington on Wednesday the US view that the Palestinian move was misguided and efforts should focus instead on reviving the stalled Middle East peace process.
"The path to a two-state solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York," she said. "The only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiations."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated US warnings that the move could lead to a reduction of US economic support for the Palestinians. The Israelis have also warned they might take significant deductions out of monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinians' behalf.
'SLAP IN THE FACE'
Granting Palestinians the title of "non-member observer state" falls short of full UN membership - something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the International Criminal Court and some other international bodies, should they choose to join them.
Hanan Ashrawi, a top Palestinian Liberation Organization official, told a news conference in Ramallah that "the Palestinians can't be blackmailed all the time with money."
"If Israel wants to destabilise the whole region, it can," she said. "We are talking to the Arab world about their support, if Israel responds with financial measures, and the EU has indicated they will not stop their support to us."
Peace talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world.
In their draft resolution, the Palestinians have pledged to relaunch the peace process immediately following the UN vote.
As there is little doubt about how the US will vote when the Palestinian resolution to upgrade its UN status is put to a vote sometime after 3 pm (2000 GMT) on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority has been concentrating its efforts on lobbying wealthy European states, diplomats say.
With strong support from the developing world that makes up the majority of UN members, the Palestinian resolution is virtually assured of securing more than the requisite simple majority. Palestinian officials hope for over 130 yes votes. - Reuters