Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is heading back to the United Nations on September 27th to seek non member state status for Palestine through the General Assembly, although he is not pressing for a vote until after the U.S. presidential election on November 6. There will undoubtedly be intense diplomatic pressure from both the U.S. and Israel for Palestinians to drop their bid which has strong backing from members of the General Assembly.
The upgraded status will allow Palestinians access to both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
The Palestinians will restart their diplomatic campaign for an independent state next week, with an appeal to the UN General Assembly to upgrade the official Palestinian status at the global body – and to pass a resolution backing a state within 1967 borders.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Mr Erekat suggested that the Palestinians would ultimately seek to join the International Criminal Court – a prospect that has long caused concern among Israeli policy makers.
“Yes, the occupation will continue, the settlements will continue, the crimes of the settlers may continue, but there will be consequences,” he said. “Those who don’t want to appear before an international tribunal must stop their crimes.”
Mr Erekat said the new Palestinian move would be at the centre of a speech to the General Assembly by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, next Thursday. The actual resolution, however, would be drafted and tabled only after consultations with other countries, and could be delayed until after the US presidential election in early November.
A request to the General Assembly will almost certainly gain a strong majority, because the Palestinians can usually rely on the backing of most countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab world. Mr Erekat said the Palestinians were hoping to win 150-170 votes in the assembly, which currently has 193 member states.
With a majority in the assembly all but certain, the only way of stopping the upgrade would be for the US and other countries to persuade the Palestinians to shelve their effort voluntarily.
Looking to dissuade Abbas and head off a U.N. showdown, Israel has threatened to withhold tax revenues that are vital to the well-being of the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.
The United States might also impose financial penalties, while some European nations are urging Palestinian caution.
“We have invested heavily in the Palestinian Authority and we do not want to see that investment jeopardised,” said a European Union diplomat, suggesting that a number of European states might vote against the Palestinian U.N. resolution.
Some 120 countries have already granted the Palestinians the rank of a sovereign state, but Erekat said they hoped to win the votes of between 150 and 170 nations at the United Nations to hammer home U.S. and Israeli isolation on the issue.
Oddly, Jodi Rudoren opens her report Year After Effort at U.N., New Aim for Palestinians claiming this move is “largely symbolic” and that “analysts” see this as an effort for to “win back the waning attention of the world.”
She later zeroes in on Abbas’s threat to abandon Oslo and cites “experts” who claim this is merely posturing. But it’s a good read as she cites Yossi Beilin, author of an open letter, End This Farce, urging Abbas to end the Oslo process who earlier referenced the present situation as a ticking time bomb.
While there is broad support for the United Nations bid among Palestinian leaders and on the street, there are also growing calls for a far more drastic move: abandoning the Oslo agreements that have governed Palestinian-Israeli relations for nearly two decades, or dissolving the Palestinian Authority. After two evenings of sometimes-heated meetings this week, according to participants, Mr. Abbas told the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization that within 10 days of his return from New York he wanted a decision either to walk away from Oslo or to hold national elections and replace him.
“Twenty years of Oslo and 20 years of a Palestinian Authority and 20 years of all the promises ended in fiasco,” said Zakaria al-Qaq, a professor of national security at Al Quds University. “They are trying to scare the Israelis, because the Israelis consider Oslo as a genius political achievement. They want to scare the Americans and the Europeans.”
“It’s like keeping someone in kindergarten for 19 years and then blaming the kindergarten for them not being successful,” Mr. Beilin said this week. “They need something dramatic. If they say by the 1st of December, if nothing good happens to us, if there are no serious negotiations, you don’t freeze settlements, whatever, we are going to give up on it — this will put the world in a different situation, everyone will rush to prevent it.”
For now, there is the General Assembly. While some in Jerusalem and Washington have condemned the effort as thwarting the peace process, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, described it Thursday as a last-ditch effort to “preserve the two-state solution.”
“We have never said that our rights of self-determination are subject to negotiation,” Mr. Erekat told journalists at his headquarters here in Jericho before leaving for Turkey en route to New York. “We are declaring a state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, to live side by side with Israel in peace and security. I don’t see why people who stand for the two-state solution would not join us.”