RAMALLAH, West Bank — Defying strong pressure from Washington, the Palestinian leadership is moving ahead with a bid to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations to non-member statehood, with a draft resolution on the issue expected to be presented Nov. 29.
The Palestinian Authority risks a punitive freeze of funds transferred by Israel and the United States, which oppose the U.N. move, but Palestinian officials say they will take the step regardless of possible retaliatory measures, hoping to get Arab nations to provide a financial safety net.
“The train has left the station,” Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told reporters Monday. “This is a point of no return from our side.”
Palestinian officials circulated a draft resolution to U.N. member states last week that called for upgrading the Palestinians’ status in the world body from “observer entity” to non-member “observer state,” similar to the status given to the Vatican.
As a U.N. observer state, Palestine could join bodies such as the International Criminal Court, where it could bring cases against Israel and ask the court to investigate alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory.
Shtayyeh said the resolution refers to a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, with the final borders to be delineated in negotiations. He said consultations were underway with U.N. member states on a final draft to be presented to the 193-member General Assembly, where a majority is expected to favor the resolution.
An attempt by the Palestinians to gain full U.N. membership failed last year after they were unable to muster the required votes in the Security Council. The move drew strong opposition from Washington, which threatened to veto the bid. Resolutions cannot be vetoed in the General Assembly.
The United States and Israel say the Palestinian statehood bid undermines peace efforts because it is a unilateral step to decide an issue that should be resolved through negotiations.
In a telephone conversation Sunday, Abbas rebuffed an appeal from President Obama to forgo the U.N. initiative. The White House said the president reiterated his “opposition to unilateral efforts at the United Nations” and his support for “direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Palestinian officials argue that the U.N. bid is an attempt to enlist international backing for Palestinian statehood after a prolonged deadlock in peace efforts, during which the Obama administration effectively withdrew from mediating a deal.
“We are going to the United Nations to preserve the two-state solution,” Shtayyeh said, adding that adoption of the resolution would create “new terms of reference for any future negotiations.”
He noted that Israel was established on the basis of a U.N. vote in 1947 that called for the partition of Palestine, then under British administration, into a Jewish and Arab state. That vote was taken Nov. 29, the same day chosen by Palestinians to submit their bid. The date is also marked annually at the United Nations as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.