News / Middle East

Palestinians Undeterred in UN Statehood Push

A Palestinian woman shouts slogans during a rally in support of President Mahmoud Abbas' bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations, in Gaza City September 22, 2011.
A Palestinian woman shouts slogans during a rally in support of President Mahmoud Abbas' bid for statehood recognition at the United Nations, in Gaza City September 22, 2011.
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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.

Palestinian officials say they will continue their pursuit of full U.N. membership despite diplomatic efforts to persuade them to drop the bid in favor of renewed peace talks with Israel.

U.S. President Barack Obama has told his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, that United Nations action will not achieve a Palestinian state. White House officials say Obama warned the Palestinian president late Wednesday in New York that the U.S. will veto any U.N. Security Council move to recognize Palestinian statehood.

Senior Palestinian aides vowed to reject any "political maneuvering" on the issue. But they added that Palestinians will give the Security Council "some time'' to study their application for full membership before taking it to the U.N. General Assembly.

No short cut

Earlier Wednesday, Obama said there is no "short cut" to peace in the Middle East. He said peace will not come through "statements and resolutions at the United Nations" but through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking to the General Assembly shortly after Obama, broke sharply with the U.S. position. The French leader supported enhanced observer status for the Palestinians in the General Assembly, along with the resumption of peace talks with Israel under a firm timetable to reach a final agreement.

The U.S. has no veto over a General Assembly resolution, and the Palestinians enjoy overwhelming support there.

Israeli stance

In a meeting with Obama earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the U.S. pledge to block a unilateral statehood bid by the Palestinians a "badge of honor."

South African President Jacob Zuma said his country, a non-permanent Security Council member, fully supports Palestinian statehood.

Thousands of Palestinians rallied in towns across the West Bank Wednesday in support of the push for full recognition.

Senior diplomats from the Mideast Quartet - the U.S., EU, U.N. and Russia - began to outline a compromise agreement to the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

The Associated Press reported that under the plan, Palestinian leaders would petition the Security Council on Friday, as expected, but would agree not to press for action on the request for statehood recognition for a year, or would withdraw it later. That would give mediators more time to craft a declaration that could draw both sides back to negotiations.

U.S.-mediated peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled a year ago, after an Israeli moratorium on West Bank settlement construction expired. Palestinians oppose construction on land they want as part of a future state.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday there will be no new freeze on settlement building.

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