Ashrawi: statehood is ‘game-changer’ and US is damaging its standing in world by opposing it

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The United States and Israel have tried to “blackmail” the Palestinians against pressing the statehood initiative at the U.N. today, Hanan Ashrawi, senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, said today, then challenged the U.S. to at least abstain on the initiative lest it become further isolated in world opinion.

“Things will be different. It’s not going to be the same… This is a gamechanger. The Palestinians are no longer at [Israel’s] mercy,” Ashrawi said, speaking on a call arranged by the Institute for Middle East Understanding. Saying that Palestinians will no longer be “stateless” and “vulnerable,” she promised that Palestine would use statehood status to press its case in international courts that Israeli settlements in occupied territory are a war crime, in violation of the Geneva convention.

“Europe has taken a stand,” Ashrawi said. While America’s “unilateral support for Israel” had damaged the U.S.’s standing around the world. 

The US “can rectify [this] by choosing a different side, declaring a foreign policy that is independent and based on American interests. We’re not asking them to be idealistic. We’re asking them to look after their own interests.. not constantly bailing Israel out.”

Asked by Yousef Munayyer, director of the Jerusalem Fund, if non-member statehood status would change anything on the ground, Ashrawi said that she didn’t expect any miracle, but that things won’t be the same going forward. “We are saying not only are we a people, we have land we have rights, we can be part of the international community… and can enjoy protections… Our territory will be defined. Jerusalem will be identified as our capital… our rights will be guaranteed or enshrined in international law.” 

The recent Gaza conflict had brought Hamas to support the statehood initiative, she said, by fostering Palestinian solidarity. “With the aggression on Gaza, it became clear to everyone that the whole Palestinian people are under attack,” by different means, whether violence, annexation, or ethnic cleansing. 

She said that Israel was “hysterical” about the possibility that the Palestinians would go to the International Criminal Court; but her strongest criticism was reserved for the U.S., which guarantees Israel’s “complete impunity.”

“We believe that Congress will do whatever Israel says,” she said, and then challenged the U.S. to do the right thing now by not voting against the statehood initiative. 

“You’d be surprised by how many countries are going to vote positively,” she said, and Palestine values every vote, whether it’s blond and blue eyed or African or Muslim.

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