In yesterday’s State Department press conference, Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that the U.S. will be voting “no” on the effort by Mahmoud Abbas to raise the United Nations status of the Palestinian Authority so that “Palestine” will move from being merely an “observer” to what is known as a non-member observer state.
At this time, the only official U.N. non-member observer state is the Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, which is the representative of the Vatican.
Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas landed in New York last night. The Resolution endorsing the change is expected to be voted upon in the U.N. General Assembly this Thursday, Nov 29.
The government of Israel is adamantly opposed to the change in status for the Arab Palestinians, and is hoping that other countries will support its position.
But, in a surprise announcement, a top diplomatic Israeli official in Jerusalem told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that Israel no longer intends to dismantle the Oslo Accords if Abbas goes through with his UN gambit. Technically, such a move negates the Oslo process, and Israel has long threatened to consider the Oslo Accords fully abrogated if the Arab Palestinians attempt to achieve results outside of negotiations.
It was not readily apparent what response, if any, the government of Israel will have to a change in status for “Palestine” at the U.N. But the announcement made Tuesday was in conflict with statements made over the past few weeks by Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in which he threatened that the Oslo process would be cancelled if Abbas went forward with his effort at the U.N.
Thus far only the U.S. has officially declared its intention to vote against the Palestinian statehood resolution. Nuland explained the U.S. position to reporters yesterday, Nov 27:
We’re focused on a policy objective on the ground for the Palestinian people, for the people of Israel, which is to end up with two states that can live peacefully next to each other. Nothing in this action at the UN is going to take the Palestinians any closer to that. So yes, we’re going to oppose it because we think it is the wrong move. We think it makes other steps that might improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis harder. Other countries will make their own decision. This is not a new issue. We’ve been talking about it for more than a year, and so we’re just going to have to see what happens later on in the week.
It is anticipated that Canada will vote against the Resolution, and Germany may abstain, but already both France and Britain have publicly stated they are committed to voting in favor of the resolution. Switzerland and Portugal are also expected to support the measure. No doubt the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation will all vote in favor of the measure.
Unlike a Resolution in the Security Council, in the General Assembly there is no such thing as a veto. A simple majority vote is all that is necessary for the measure to pass. Full member status can only be obtained through a vote at the Security Council. Last year Abbas went to the Security Council to seek full member status for “Palestine.” The United States, however, made clear its intention to veto the measure, and the effort was withdrawn.
After some badgering by reporters over whether the change in status would have any impact on the peace process, Ms. Nuland said, categorically, “We oppose any move in the General Assembly. We think it’s going to make the situation harder.”
And Abbas is going to the UN with the support from an unexpected source – longtime political rival leadership of Hamas is now supporting the U.N. bid. No clear explanations have been offered for this about-face. However, there are those who suspect Hamas anticipates victory over Abbas’s Fatah as the sole representative of the Arab Palestinian people. If so, then they will be the representative party at the United Nations.
It is widely expected that the U.N. Resolution will pass, but even if it does “Palestine” will not be a full member of the UN.
A draft copy of the Resolution, dated 26 Nov 2012, was obtained by The Jewish Press. The Resolution reiterates all of the demands the Arab Palestinians have made, with no concessionary language whatsoever, and includes demands for the release of prisoners, the “right of return,” the cessation of all Israeli “settlement” activities, including in “East Jerusalem,” that the capital of “Palestine” will be “East Jerusalem,” and,
the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfills the vision of two States, an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel, on the basis of the pr-1967 borders.
The Resolution also calls on the Security Council to favorably consider the application submitted last year to the United Nations for full membership for “Palestine.”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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