News / Middle East

Abbas Submits Palestinian Statehood Application

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (l) gives a letter requesting recognition of Palestine as a state to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sept. 23, 2011.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (l) gives a letter requesting recognition of Palestine as a state to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Sept. 23, 2011.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally asked the U.N. Security Council Friday to recognize a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu countered that statehood should only follow a negotiated peace accord, and the international Quartet on the Middle East called for new direct talks under a strict time-frame.

Palestinian Statehood Bid Breakdown

    The Process

  • Palestinians say they are seeking U.N. recognition after years of negotiations with Israel failed to deliver an independent state.
  • It is not clear if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will seek U.N. Security Council approval of U.N. member status for an independent Palestine, or instead seek "non-member status" within the world body.
  • The mechanism for recognizing statehood at the United Nations is specific.
  • First, a resolution declaring a State of Palestine as a full U.N. member is introduced. Then the resolution is sent to the Security Council, which studies it and takes a vote on sending the measure to the full General Assembly. It takes two thirds of the U.N.'s membership to approve voting-state status.
  • Achieving non-member status requires only a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly. Palestinians currently hold observer status at the world body.
  • Non-voting U.N. membership would provide Palestinians with a status upgrade that would allow them to petition U.N. committees and entities such as the International Court of Justice.

    Why the Palestinian bid?

  • President Abbas backed out of U.S.-led peace talks last year in protest against Israel's decision to end a freeze in settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state. Palestinians say because the peace process has failed, they will unilaterally seek to establish a state. Abbas said the Palestinians are the only people in the world who remain under occupation.

    Why the Israelis oppose the move?

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Palestinians' plan to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations is "futile," and that only direct negotiations can lead to a peace agreement.
  • Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of "consistently evading" negotiations. He called on the Palestinian Authority "to abandon unilateral steps" and said it would then "find Israel to be a genuine partner" for peace.
  • Israel leaders say that by bypassing talks and going to the U.N., the Palestinians are violating previous agreements, and that could result in Israeli sanctions.

    Why the U.S. promises to veto?

  • The Obama administration opposes the Palestinian move and says it will not help to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table. President Obama has called the proposal a "distraction" to attaining Mideast peace that he says can only be addressed through negotiations.
  • The U.S., one of five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, says it will veto a Palestinian membership bid in the Council if it comes to a vote.

The long-awaited and controversial move by the Palestinians culminated in a 10-minute meeting at the United Nations, at which Abbas formally submitted the written statehood application to U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-moon.

A half-hour later the Palestinian Authority chief, addressing the U.N. General Assembly and greeted by loud ovations, appealed for international support for what he termed Palestine’s “appointment with history."

Through an interpreter he said, “I say the time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth - free, in a sovereign and independent homeland.”

Abbas said no one “with a shred of conscience” could reject the Palestinian application for full U.N. membership.

While denouncing Israeli policies, including erection of what he termed a “racist annexation wall” around West Bank, he said the Palestinians are ready to immediately return to peace talks with Israel - on the basis of a complete settlement freeze.

Abbas said, through an interpreter, “Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing. Rather, we want to gain legitimacy for the people of Palestine. We only aim to de-legitimize the settlement activity, the occupation and apartheid, and the logic of ruthless force. And we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.”

The Palestinian action came despite U.S. and European warnings that statehood - over Israel’s objections and outside of peace talks - would inflame tensions and set back hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

In his U.N. address, shortly after the Abbas speech, the Israeli prime minister said Israel will support Palestinian statehood, but only after a negotiated peace accord that guarantees Israel’s security.

He said Israel left Gaza, uprooting settlements in 2005 to international applause, but was rewarded with a takeover of Gaza, and rocket attacks, by the militant Hamas.

“Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we’re not prepared to have another Gaza there. And that’s why we need to have real security arrangements, which the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with us,” said Netanyahu.

He said the core issue of the conflict is not settlements, but the Palestinians’ refusal to accept a Jewish state in any borders.

Netanyahu renewed a challenge to Abbas to reopen negotiations without preconditions this week, while they are both in New York.

"Who’s there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations?” asked Netanyahu.

The Security Council may take weeks, or even months, to act on the statehood application.

In the meantime, the United States and the other members of the Middle East Quartet - the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - offered a new proposal for direct talks Friday.

They called for the two parties to come up with comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months, and to reach a final deal no later than the end of 2012. The Quartet will hold a conference in Moscow to press a deal, and there would be a separate donor conference to boost Palestinian state-building efforts.


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