News / Middle East

Palestinians Launch Public Relations Offensive for UN Membership Bid

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, with U.S. Mideast peace envoy David Hale in Ramallah, September 7, 2011.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, with U.S. Mideast peace envoy David Hale in Ramallah, September 7, 2011.
Robert Berger

The Palestinians are hoping to seize the spotlight at the annual meeting of the United Nations later this month with an expected request to join the world body as a full member state. Palestinians have started a media offensive for their cause.

The Palestinians have launched a public relations campaign ahead of a push for statehood recognition at the United Nations General Assembly in two weeks. Palestinian officials and activists announced the plan on Thursday in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The letter urges him to add his "moral voice in support of the Palestinian people."

An advertisement on the Voice of Palestine radio station features U.S. President Barack Obama appearing at the U.N. a year ago.

"[When] we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations, an independent sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel," he says.

The ad seems to suggest American backing for the upcoming effort at the U.N.  But the United States and Israel oppose this Palestinian push for statehood recognition, saying unilateral moves are counterproductive and that direct negotiations are the only way to resolve the conflict. U.S. envoys were in the region this week in a failed bid to persuade Palestinian leaders to forestall the membership bid.

"By going to the United Nations the Palestinians are making a tragic mistake, first and foremost, for their own people; because everyone understands that Palestinian statehood can only be achieved through an agreement with Israel, a peace agreement," said Mark Regev, Israeli spokesman.

The United States has warned the Palestinians that it is prepared to use its veto in the U.N. Security Council to thwart a statehood bid. Therefore, the Palestinians could opt for a symbolic vote in the U.N. General Assembly where they enjoy strong support.

"We have several alternatives and we are keeping all our options and alternatives open," said Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi. "We are still discussing with all our friends, or in Europe or in Asia or the rest of the world, we're discussing the best, the most effective means, of addressing the U.N. and of getting membership."

The Palestinians are expected to seek U.N. membership based on boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Israel rejects a return to those lines.

The Palestinians are planning mass demonstrations in the West Bank this month as they press for recognition of an independent state. Palestinian officials say the rallies will be peaceful, but Israel is bracing for violence. The Israeli police and army have stockpiled riot-control gear such as long-range tear gas launchers and water cannons, and units are undergoing special training in crowd control.


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