News / Middle East

Palestinians Won't Stop Statehood Drive

A Palestinian school girl, left, hands a letter, addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to UN officer Pascale Soto, right, during a rally to support the Palestinian statehood bid in the United Nations, in the West Bank city of Rama
A Palestinian school girl, left, hands a letter, addressed to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to UN officer Pascale Soto, right, during a rally to support the Palestinian statehood bid in the United Nations, in the West Bank city of Rama

The Palestinians are taking their statehood bid to the United Nations this week.  Palestinian leaders plan to ask the world body for full status as a state, though that has already been assured a block by the United States. Still, Palestinian leaders say, they are undeterred.

After years of holding talks with Israel in a bid to gain statehood, the Palestinians have decided on a different strategy. They say they are going to the United Nations to seek status as a full member state.  That plan has drawn sharp criticism from Israel, and from the United States, which insist that statehood can only be achieved through bilateral negotiations.

Longtime Palestinian legislator and official Hanan Ashrawi asserts  the Palestinians are entitled to act on their own.

"We don't need permission from Israel," he said. "The right to self determination, and statehood, and sovereignty is enshrined in the U.N. resolutions, and in the U.N. Charter, and in international law. We have fulfilled all of the requirements of statehood according to the Montevideo Convention and the U.N. Charter."

The mechanism for recognizing statehood at the United Nations is specific.  A resolution is introduced. The resolution is sent to the Security Council, which then studies it and then takes a vote on sending the measure to the full General Assembly.  It then takes two thirds of the U.N.'s membership to approve voting-state status.

But the United States has announced it will use its Security Council veto privilege to stop the Palestinian resolution.  If that indeed takes place, the Palestinians are left with seeking "observer state" status that falls short of full membership.  

Non-voting U.N. membership not only provides a status upgrade, but it also affords access to U.N. committees and entities.  

According to Graeme Bannerman at the Middle East Institute, it could provide more Palestinian leverage at the bargaining table with the Israelis.

"Nobody believes that there is going to be a Palestinian state, fully recognized in the international community, without negotiations with the Israelis. That's going to happen," said Bannerman. "The issue is 'Will they be better able to negotiate with more of a 'state' recognition than being this weak entity [the Palestinians' current status] versus the stronger State of Israel?'"

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, continues to say that peace will only be achieved through direct negotiations.  And he says Israel will still be ready to talk even after the Palestinians seek statehood from the U.N..

"After the smoke clears, after all that is happening at the U.N., at the end, the Palestinians will come to their senses - this is what I hope - and will abandon these moves that bypass negotiations," said Netanyahu.

The PLO's Representative to the United States, Maen Areikat, says he and other Palestinian leaders are undeterred by this and any other pressures.

"This is an issue of national pride to us. Our freedom and independence are not on the table for bargaining. We will not bargain on our freedom and independence. No matter what the repercussions and the consequences are going to be," he said.

In Washington - which provided the Palestinians with nearly $500 million in 2010 - consequences have been threatened as well.  Nevertheless, Abbas says the statehood drive will not be stopped.

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