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Palestinians stay firm on U.N. statehood bid

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Postby rath » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:02 pm

November 14

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.
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Postby rath » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:03 pm

Palestine calls for UN action on Israeli strikes

November 15, 2012

Palestine on Wednesday called on the United Nations and its Security Council to take a stand on Israel's latest strikes on the Gaza Strip in a bid to "ensure that the international peace and security is maintained in our region."

Riyard Mansour, Palestine's permanent observer to the United Nations, made the statement to the press here shortly after he delivered a letter to Hardeep Singh Puri, India's UN ambassador who holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for November.

"The situation is explosive. We condemned the Israeli strikes in the strongest term," Mansour said, adding "They are opening a war on us."

Mansour said he also met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Vuk Jeremic, president of the UN General Assembly, over Israel 's military offensive on Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

"Our understanding that the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza so far is nine and the number is increasing and there is a large number of people injured," Mansour said.

The Israeli air force, after killing Hamas military leader in an air raid, on Wednesday continued striking Hamas targets, including its long-range rocket sites, in the Gaza Strip, while a large number of Israeli troops have amassed along the border for a possible ground invasion.

The conflict between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip had escalated over the past days. On Saturday, Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile against a patrol jeep of the Israeli Defense Forces, wounding four soldiers. In retaliation, the Israeli Air Force carried out several air strikes on Palestinian targets in Gaza, to be answered by more than 150 rockets and mortar shells launched into southern Israel.

On his meeting with Security Council president, Mansour said, " I asked him that this situation is threatening international peace and security and we expect the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility in order to ensure that international peace and security is maintained in our region."

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council, the most powerful UN body, has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security in the world at large.

"We will continue engaging members of the Security Council especially the president in the next few hours and during the night in order to respond appropriately to this latest aggression in the Gaza strip," Mansour said.

According to him, the Palestinian Authority is also coordinating its actions with the Arab League and Egypt.

On the intention of the Israeli military action, Mansour said, "Of course, the Israeli aggression is, as you know, synchronized with our efforts of asking the GA (General Assembly) to act on our draft resolution on the 29th of this month."

"They are now opening a war against our people in the Gaza strip in order really to divert attention from the efforts in the GA," he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday that the Palestinians are set to present their bid for the status of an observer state to the United Nations on Nov. 29.

"We have made continuous efforts to win a majority all over the world for our bid," Abbas said when asking for help from all Arab countries.

The Palestinian bid for a full UN membership last year failed as they did not garner support at the Security Council due to strong opposition from the United States, a veto-wielding permanent council member.

In response, Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations Ron Prosor on Wednesday defended his country's military offensives on Gaza by accusing the Palestinian militants of " indiscriminate rocket firing" into southern Israel. "Israel will do whatever it can to defend our citizens," he said.

"This is something that the State of Israel and the government of Israel has a responsibility to defend citizens," Prosor said. "I want to tell you very clearly that men, women and children of Israel for the previous three weeks have been under this constant attack and this is the reason that Israel reacted today and will continue to defend its citizens if those things continue from Gaza. "

"I've been calling the Security Council and the international community to stand up and condemn to indiscriminate rocket fire against Israel and Israeli civilians day in and day out," he said. "This is a situation in which no country, no government can live with."
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Postby rath » Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:33 pm

11/16/2012

The Palestinians can easily win a vote upgrading their status at the United Nations to a "non-member observer state" but they may pay a steep price for it from Israel and America.

And now, in the real world, with rockets and drones flying in an out of Gaza, some observers speculate a delay in the planned introduction of a resolution on Nov. 29 -- or a more determined effort to get the word "state" instead of an observer "entity" in the UN title.

"The train has left the station," Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said on Monday. "This is a point of no return from our side."

The resolution has been circulated in the 193-member General Assembly, where no member has veto power (see text). It says that the Palestinian Authority is committed to the "two-state solution" in which Israel and an independent Palestinian state would co-exist. It would give Palestine "observer state" status "without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people."

The new label, similar to that of the Vatican, would allow Palestine to join U.N. agencies, including the International Criminal Court, where they could file charges against Israeli individuals. (However, the court operates so slowly and carefully, such an indictment may never be issued.)

Seeing Gaza with binoculars

Israel's UN ambassador, Ron Prosor told reporters that the implicit recognition of statehood would include Gaza, run by Hamas, which fires rockets at Israel and is not under the control of the Palestinian Authority. "Abu Mazen (Abbas) has not seen Gaza with binoculars in the last six years," he said.

Israel has threatened to stop collecting tax revenues for the Palestinian Authority and not hand over any money if Abbas continues to seek an upgrade, said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

Author Peter Beinart, an associate professor at CUNY, and an expert on Israeli politics, told this writer that "Israel might annex area C or take a more hostile stance toward the Palestinian Authority in some other way, or do nothing at all." Area C comprises about 60 percent of the West Bank and all the Palestinian settlements. Oy.

Then there is the United States. From 2008 to the present, Washington's bilateral assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has averaged over $600 million, including about $200 million in budget assistance to the Palestinian Authority and $100 in security assistance. The U.S. also donates to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, many of whom are in Gaza.

PA can't pay civil servants

But Congress froze some $200 million in financial aid to the Palestinians last year. And Arab countries have not come through with promised funds, leaving the Palestinian Authority in West Bank short of monies in paying government salaries. There are some 154,000 civil servants, who support their extended families in the West Bank.

Worse yet, the current Republican-controlled Congress has been eager to chop funds to the United Nations as well as to any UN agency that accepts Palestinian membership. This has already happened to UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, whose board accepted Palestine.

Abbas last year lobbied the 15-nation Security Council to approve full membership, an attempt doomed from the start, whereas going to the General Assembly then could have been easier. Not only did the United States threaten a veto but the PA fell short of the required nine votes, with European and Latin American nations, and even Bosnia, sure to abstain.

Regardless of the General Assembly vote, the Palestinians would remain stateless and remain under occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. For Israel, the continued barrage of rockets is unacceptable not just to the government but to the public at large.

"Nightmare scenario"

Yet, according to Stephen Cook, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "The Israelis could be looking at a situation in which their relations are deteriorating with Egypt, faced with the possibility of two fronts in Gaza, and in the north from Hezbollah, and the crumbling of its relationship with Jordan. All around, a nightmare scenario."

The situation is bound to get worse before it gets better. Palestinians in Gaza for the first time on Friday fired rockets at Jerusalem. On Thursday, rockets were fired at Tel Aviv, also for the first time, in response to Israeli aerial assaults. By calling up 16,000 reservists, Israel seemed prepared to another ground invasion, the first in four years.

Gershon Baskin, co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, warns against such an invasion, saying it did not work the last time and will not work this time.

"Do we really want to reoccupy Gaza, because that will be the consequence of a regime change. I don't believe that (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu wants re-occupation. So if that is not what he wants, he must be aware that, on the morning after, we will still be living next to Gaza, which still be run by Hamas. They are not going away and the people of Gaza are not going away," he said.

At the United Nations, the Security Council is trying to stake out a position on Gaza but has not been able to reach agreement on a resolution.

Said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "A new cycle of bloodshed will make neither Israelis nor Palestinians more secure. Nor will bloodshed open the door to negotiations that could achieve the two-state solution necessary to end such violence permanently."

It is doubtful, however, serious talks will resume without the United States and/or Egypt as an interlocutor.

And the history of Israelis and Palestinians for the past few years seems to be that not talking is a lot easier than talking.
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Postby rath » Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:36 pm

Israel: Palestinian UN bid could threaten accords

Israeli diplomats have put foreign leaders on notice that their country will consider its historic peace accords with the Palestinians null and void if they ask the United Nations for a state, according to a document obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.


Israeli diplomats have put foreign leaders on notice that their country will consider its historic peace accords with the Palestinians null and void if they ask the United Nations for a state, according to a document obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The list of Foreign Ministry talking points also instructs diplomats to tell world leaders that Israel will retaliate against the move, without specifying details.

The Palestinians, frustrated with a four-year impasse in peace efforts, say they will ask the U.N. General Assembly on Nov. 29 to give them upgraded observer status. A draft resolution floated by the Palestinians seeks international recognition of their state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israel and the U.S. strongly oppose the effort, saying all matters must be resolved through negotiations. On Wednesday, a U.S. envoy was set to meet the Palestinian president in Switzerland in a last-ditch bid to halt the bid.

The document says U.N. General Assembly approval of the Palestinian request would violate 1990s agreements between the two sides and "give Israel the right to reconsider and nullify" them in whole or in part. "Adoption of the resolution by the General Assembly will have grave consequences, and set in motion unilateral Israeli responses," the ministry communique said, cautioning that it would also complicate future diplomatic progress.

Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon, speaking in a similar vein, told Army Radio on Wednesday that his country would "have to take steps to make it clear that there will be a heavy price" if the statehood petition goes ahead. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also warned previously that a statehood appeal would push peace further away and lead to instability.

Late Tuesday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned that the planned Palestinian move would undermine negotiations. "None of us should act in any way that would place a return to talks at risk. There can be no substitute for meaningful negotiations," he said in a speech at Yale University.

Palestinians, exasperated after 44 years of Israeli occupation, insist they have no choice but to sidestep talks that have foundered for nearly two decades amid a toxic mix of intransigence, violence and failure of will.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insists he hasn't closed the door on negotiations, but only on condition Israel stop building settlements on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state. Israel refuses to do that, saying the future of settlements will be settled once an agreement is reached on the final borders of Jewish and Palestinian states.

General Assembly recognition would not change the situation on the ground. But the Palestinians hope to use their upgraded status on the world stage to press their claims for a homeland. They also hope it will be a springboard for admission to other U.N. bodies, including the International Criminal Court, where they hope to prosecute Israel on war crimes charges.

Vice Premier Yaalon said an appeal to the U.N. would be a "flagrant" breach of the Oslo accords of the early 1990s, which require disputes to be settled through dialogue. He stopped short of saying they would be rendered void.

"Let's wait," he said. "But we can't let it go by and must take steps to make it clear there will be a heavy price," he said.

He didn't specify what measures Israel might take. An end to the accords could stop cooperation with the Palestinians in a wide range of areas. Among other things, it could withhold the transfer of millions of dollars in taxes and customs it collects on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank government and block the import of equipment for Palestinian security forces, an Israeli official explained.

No decisions on any such moves have been made, he added.

Israel delivered a similar message to world leaders last year when the Palestinians - unsuccessfully - sought U.N. Security Council recognition of an independent state with full membership in the world body. The General Assembly, dominated by developing nations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, is expected to approve their request for a lesser status, non-member observer state.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat accused Israel of turning its back on the peace accords long ago, in part with continued settlement construction. He denied the statehood bid was a violation of the agreements.

The accords "spoke about negotiations on all core issues and that is what the resolution at the U.N. is all about, two states based on the (prewar) `67 border and negotiations to solve all core issues," he said.

The United States has been lobbying the Palestinians to abandon the bid. President Barack Obama phoned Abbas on Sunday, but the following day, the Palestinian leader announced it would be submitted on Nov. 29.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that the Obama administration's special Mideast peace envoy, David Hale, would meet with Abbas on Wednesday in Switzerland to try to persuade him not to go to the General Assembly.

"We're still at the stage where we're actively trying to convince them that this is a bad idea, that this is not going to get them the results ultimately that they seek," Toner said. "We've been clear in the past about what some of the consequences that this would generate, or engender.

The date of the Palestinians' statehood bid has great historical significance. On Nov. 29, 1947, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending implementation of a plan to partition what was then British-ruled Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states. The Jewish community in Palestine accepted the plan, but Arab leaders, including Palestinians, rejected it.

In the West Bank on Wednesday, dozens of Palestinian demonstrators, along with Israeli and foreign supporters, blocked roads used by Jewish settlers. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and reopened the road at one checkpoint between the West Bank and Israel.

Organizers said the protests were meant to mark two dates on the Palestinian calendar: the eighth anniversary of the death of longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the upcoming anniversary of the 1988 decision by the Palestinians to declare independence.
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