Sunday,22 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Sunday,22 July, 2018
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Palestinians united ahead of UN bid

With the US threatening to block by any means Palestinian attempts to gain non-member UN status, Mahmoud Abbas looks set to seek it anyway, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

Thoroughly disillusioned by Israel’s refusal to end its military occupation that started in 1967, and also by the absence of any meaningful international pressure on Israel to stop settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian territory, the Palestinian Authority (PA) seems determined to seek and obtain non-member status at the United Nations.

The Obama administration, almost certainly in concert with Israel, is resorting to what was termed “last-minute efforts” to try to thwart the Palestinian bid.

This week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas was on his way to New York and is expected to attend a special UN General Assembly session Thursday, 29 November, during which a crucial vote on the Palestinian application for non-member status will be conducted.

The PA expects as many as 150 member states to vote “yes” to the application, with only a few states — including Israel, her guardian-ally the United States, and the Czech Republic — set to vote against.

It is still not known how European Union states will vote. Political observers are predicting that at least half of EU member states will vote in favour of the Palestinian bid while the other half will abstain.

Germany, a close ally of Israel, might vote against the Palestinian bid.

Prior to his departure for New York, Abbas addressed a Palestinian rally outside his Ramallah headquarters. He said he was fully confident and determined to pursue the UN membership goal, despite all the pressures and threats the PA was facing from many quarters.

“We are going to the UN fully confident in our steps. We will have our rights because you are with us,” he told a crowd of about a thousand demonstrators supporting the effort to upgrade Palestine’s legal status at the UN.

He added: “We are for a just peace, which is agreed on by the international community, which will give us our state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Without achieving this goal, there is no hope at all.”

Abbas said his effort to obtain a non-member status at the UN was being supported by the bulk of the international community as well as all Palestinian political factions.

“We are on our way to the United Nations and there are a lot of states supporting us, who support peace and justice. All of the factors are with us in going to the United Nations,” he added.

Abbas also said that his next task would be to achieve Palestinian reconciliation.

Abbas has also the unlikely backing of his top political and ideological rival, Hamas, whose leadership has voiced support for Abbas’s mission. A statement by the Palestinian Islamic resistance group said its chief, Khaled Meshaal, supported the PA bid at the UN.

“Khaled Meshaal held a telephone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in which he affirmed that Hamas welcomed the step of going to the United Nations for [non-member] state observer status.”

Relations between Hamas and Fatah improved significantly in the aftermath of the latest Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. The PA strongly condemned the Israeli bombing campaign, calling it murderous and criminal.

The PA also dispatched to Gaza several high-ranking Fatah officials, including Nabil Shaath, PA Foreign Minister Riad Maliki, and a large delegation representing Fatah’s Revolutionary Council.

Nonetheless, not all Palestinians are enthusiastic about Abbas’s UN mission. Hamas’s leader Mahmoud Zahra said he was sure the mission would fail. He also reasserted the right of return for Palestinian refugees, like himself, who were uprooted and expelled from their homes and villages in what is now Israel.

HECTIC EFFORTS: Meanwhile, Israel and the United States are making every effort to foil the Palestinian bid to gain enhanced status at the UN.

Israeli officials, acting nervously and anxiously, warned the Palestinians of “the dire consequences” of what they were doing.

One Israeli cabinet minister was quoted as saying that the Palestinians would regret their unilateral steps. (The Israeli minister ignored the fact that Israel has always acted and continues to act unilaterally, with disregard for the rule of international law, including the unmitigated expansion of Jewish colonies on occupied Palestinian and Arab territories.)

The hawkish Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, promised to take strident and draconian actions against the PA, including the possibility of totally dismantling the Ramallah regime.

However, it is widely believed that Lieberman’s threats are no more than verbal sabre rattling reflecting Israeli frustration and inability to stop the Palestinians from pursuing non-member status at the UN.

Some Israeli officials prefer to wait to see the practical ramifications of the UN vote, presuming a Palestinian victory.

According to some international law experts, the PA would be treated as a state under occupation in case an overwhelming majority of UN member states vote in favour of the Palestinian bid.

In this case, Israel would utterly be unable to justify its retaliatory or punitive measures against the Palestinians.

Israel is especially worried that the “new” PA would be able to submit complaints against Israeli leaders and military commanders at the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with Israel’s wanton massacres and bombings in the Gaza Strip.

Similarly, the US is making hectic efforts to prevent the PA from achieving its goal at the UN.

One American official was quoted as saying that the Obama administration was exploring all avenues in an effort to make the PA leadership rethink its agenda at the UN.

“Our message to the Palestinians has not changed. We believe that bringing forward a resolution on statehood is unwise, doesn’t help bring them to get closer to their legitimate aspirations, and will create an environment less positive for negotiations. We are trying to prevent this from happening, don’t want it to happen, and it has not happened yet.”

The American official reiterated platitudes that the two sides would have to negotiate a settlement acceptable to both. The Palestinians argue that Israel is too arrogant, too intransigent and too emboldened by unrestricted and unlimited American backing to want to reach a dignified compromise.

Most Palestinians are also thoroughly frustrated by the Obama administration’s failure to live up to its promises to deal fairly towards the enduring Palestinian plight.

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