Friday, September 23, 2011

Palestinians to make statehood bid at UN

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is due to submit his bid to the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state.
He is expected to present a letter in the next few hours requesting admission to the UN shortly before addressing the General Assembly to argue the case.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to speak soon after, and is expected to denounce the move.
Israel and the US oppose it, saying a Palestinian state can only be achieved through talks with Israel.
President Barack Obama told Mr Abbas on Thursday that the US will use its UN Security Council veto to block the move, but Mr Abbas vowed to press ahead with the bid.
Meanwhile in the West Bank, Palestinians are preparing for mass rallies to coincide with the submission of the bid.
Giant TV screens have been set up in several cities so that people can watch Mr Abbas's General Assembly speech, expected at 16:30 GMT.
"I am going to listen to Abbas's speech because it will tell us our future and our destiny, and we are expecting so much from him, to declare our state," Khalil Jaberi, a 21-year-old university student in the city of Hebron, told the Associated Press news agency.
Mr Abbas has called for peaceful marches in support of his initiative, but some clashes were reported:
  • One Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops during clashes in the village of Qusra, south of Nablus, Palestinian sources say
  • At the Qalandiya checkpoint, Israeli troops fired tear gas on stone-throwing Palestinian youths
  • In the village of Nabi Saleh, protesters burned Israeli flags and pictures of President Obama
The process begins with Mr Abbas presenting a written request for UN recognition of the Palestinian territories as a state to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
If Mr Ban decides the application is in order, the Security Council will examine it and vote on it. In order to pass, it would need the backing of nine out of 15 council members, with no vetoes from the permanent members.

Middle East viewpoints

Analyst Yezid Sayigh argues that US and Israeli policies have forced the Palestinians to resort to requesting full UN membership.
Israeli commentator Yossi Klein Halevi argues that the Palestinians need to convince the Israelis that any state would not be a threat.
A Security Council vote could take weeks to come about and the US may not even need to exercise its veto - Washington and Israel have been lobbying council members to either vote against the Palestinian plan or abstain.
But the Palestinians' application has given them some political initiative, putting their case for independence back on the international agenda in a much more urgent way than it was before, says the BBC's Middle East analyst Jeremy Bowen.
The move has focused diplomatic minds on restarting the stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which broke down a year ago.
On Wednesday, Mr Obama told the General Assembly: "Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem."
Egyptian foreign minister: "Another US veto wouldn't be helpful, it could inflame the sentiments on the streets"
It is politically embarrassing abroad for Mr Obama to be trying so hard to block the Palestinian application while the US praises the changes sweeping the Arab world, says our Middle East analyst.
But with a re-election campaign to fight, the president needs the votes of Israel's supporters in the US, our analyst says.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged a compromise, suggesting the General Assembly give the Palestinians enhanced status as a non-member state to allow a clear timeline for talks - a month to start negotiations, six months to deal with borders and security and a year to finalise a "definitive agreement".

Palestinian UN membership bid

  • Palestinians currently have permanent observer entity status at the UN
  • They are represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)
  • Officials now want an upgrade so a state of Palestine has full member status at the UN
  • They seek recognition on 1967 borders - in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza
  • Enhanced observer member status could be an interim option
A vote on enhanced status - enjoyed by others such as the Vatican - would not require a Security Council recommendation but a simple majority in the General Assembly, where no veto is possible.
Currently the Palestinians have observer status at the UN.
The "Quartet" of US, European, Russian and UN mediators has been working on reaching a framework agreement to restart talks, based on Mr Obama's vision of borders fashioned from Israel's pre-1967 boundary, with agreed land swaps.
Palestinians say their bid for statehood has been inspired by the Arab Spring, and is the result of years of failed peace talks.
While UN recognition would have largely symbolic value, the Palestinians argue it would strengthen their hand in peace talks.
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