UK acts with Israel and USA to stop PA bid
This posting has 3 items:
1) Ma’an news: UK pressuring PLO to abandon UN bid;
2) Times of Israel: In phonecall with Obama, Abbas vows to carry on with UN bid ;
3) Ma’an news: 51 states ‘undecided’ over Palestinian UN bid ;
By Bassam Abu Eid, Ma’an news
November 10, 2012
BETHLEHEM — The UK is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to abandon its bid to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN, a senior Fatah official said Thursday.
“Until this moment, there is no international pressure on the PA concerning the UN bid (from Europe), except from Britain,” Nabil Shaath told Ma’an.
Shaath said London had pressured the PA to drop the bid and allow room for the US to launch new political initiatives, but he did not expect anything new until next year.
The US has threatened to cut off funding and take other measures if the Palestinians turn to the UN, but a British official said in September that UK aid was not at risk.
“The PA will not postpone the UN bid as it is a strategic decision,” Shaath said, adding that the bid would be submitted by the end of November.
The Guardian newspaper reported in October that British diplomats have told Palestinian officials that a vote in the weeks following the US election would significantly decrease the chances of the next US administration taking steps to get peace negotiations re-started.
They are also warning of potentially serious financial consequences for the Palestinian Authority if it goes ahead, according to the report.
The Palestinians had postponed their initiative at the UN until after the US presidential election, which US President Barack Obama won on Tuesday.
Shaath welcomed the reelection of Obama and said he hoped the president would be more flexible in his second term. But, the PA cannot rely on a change in his approach and will not postpone the UN bid, he added.
“Obama is not Saladin for us but he’s better than Richard the Lionheart Romney, who does not know anything about the Palestinian cause,” Shaath said.
Saladin was a 12th century Muslim leader who defended Jerusalem against Richard the Lionheart, a Christian crusader.
Shaath said Obama’s reelection was a defeat for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had backed Romney in a move that drew criticism the Israeli premier was interfering in domestic US affairs.
The Fatah leader said Netanyahu’s miscalculation could cost him support in upcoming Israeli elections.
In late October Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt met with PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat and expressed the UK’s “deep concern about developments that threaten our shared goal” of a two-state solution, particularly settlements.
“Along with EU and international partners, we are urging both sides to focus on dialogue, avoid steps that could undermine the prospects for peace and to work towards the resumption of direct negotiations without preconditions,” he said.
Shaath said there were European countries that might change their positions toward the UN bid after elections bring in more socialist parties.
Fatah is a member in the socialist faction that is consisted of Netherlands, Ukraine, and Lithuania. “We are trying to convince Germany to vote for the UN bid,” he said.
He said Germany’s Social Democratic Party supported the bid. The opposition party has promised to lobby the government to vote for Palestine’s upgrade, he said.
A Palestinian delegation is currently visiting Germany to drum up support for the UN resolution.
White House: US president expressed opposition to unilateral statehood push; spokesman for PA president says leaders spoke at length Sunday
By AP and Times of Israel
November 12, 2012
RAMALLAH, West Bank — A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinians will proceed with asking the UN General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state, despite a personal call from US President Barack Obama to abandon the bid.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Abbas had a long phone conversation with Obama Sunday evening.
According to Rudeineh, the US president “expresses his opposition to this step,” but Abbas replied that he would carry on.
In Washington, the White House press office said that Obama “reiterated the United States’ opposition to unilateral efforts at the United Nations.”
Obama also “reaffirmed his commitment to Middle East peace and his strong support for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians” for a peace accord, the White House said.
The US and Israel have opposed upgrading the Palestinian status at the world body to nonmember observer state.
The two countries say a Palestinian state can be established only through negotiations. Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down four years ago, and the Palestinians refuse to renew them until Israel agrees to halt all settlement construction, which Jerusalem has refused to do.
Earlier Sunday, Abbas reiterated his intention to proceed with a UN bid in November.
“Some powers are trying to tell us that the two-state solution doesn’t come from the UN but through negotiations,” Abbas said Sunday, speaking at a memorial ceremony for former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. “Negotiations are crucial. But to get UN recognition is also key.”
He added, “We will turn to the United Nations, even though they do not want us to do this… We do not want to deny the legitimacy of Israel; only the legitimacy of the settlements.”
By Ma’an news
November 11, 2012
BETHLEHEM — Fifty-one countries are undecided over whether to support [Palestine] in its bid to become a non-member state of the UN, an Arab League official said Friday.
Mohammad Sbeih, secretary-general of Palestinian affairs at the Arab League, said 115 states were expected to vote for the upgrade while 27 countries would not support the bid.
Sbeih told Ma’an that 51 states were hesitant to support Palestine because of US pressure. Washington has lobbied against the PLO’s UN bid.
Palestinian delegations are working to win the support of the undecided states, Sbeih said.
The PLO needs a simple majority vote in the 193-member General Assembly to win non-member observer status. Sbeih told Ma’an he expected a vote to take place on Nov. 15.
Sbeih said he had discussed the procedure for the vote with President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Wednesday. Abbas will attend a meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Nov. 12 to discuss the latest developments in the UN initiative.
The US has threatened to withdraw funding from the Palestinian Authority if it pursues the UN upgrade, which could grant Palestinians access to the International Criminal Court, where they could file complaints against Israel.
An Israeli official said earlier this week that if the PLO pushes on with the UN bid, Israel may cancel the Paris Protocol, a key economic accord it maintains with the cash-strapped PA.
PA Economy Minister Jawad al-Naji said Friday that the UN bid could exacerbate the government’s financial crisis.
Al-Naji told Ma’an that Israeli restrictions on trade and investment had worsened the Palestinian economy in 2012. The minister said he expected further restrictions after the UN vote, and that Israel may stop transferring Palestinian tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA.
The PA is working with various institutions to try and limit the impact of any sanctions arising from the UN bid, he said.
Al-Naji pointed out that Israel already prevents the PA and the private sector from exploiting Palestinian resources in over 60 percent of the West Bank, designated as “Area C” in the Oslo Accords.
The PA circulated a draft resolution to UN member states on Wednesday calling for the upgrade to its UN status. The draft resolution also reiterates the PA’s commitment to the two-state solution.
If approved, the resolution would “accord to Palestine Observer State status in the United Nations system, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people,” according to a draft obtained by Reuters.
Frustrated that their bid for full UN membership last year failed amid US opposition in the UN Security Council, the PLO launched the watered-down bid for recognition as an “observer state,” the same status given to the Vatican.
Israel and the United States have called on Abbas to return to peace talks instead of submitted the UN bid. Negotiations collapsed in 2010 over illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
The draft resolution would have UN member states express “the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process.”
Several Western diplomats said US and European officials were lobbying the PA to delay the move to allow newly re-elected US President Barack Obama time to try to restart moribund Middle East peace talks.
Reuters contributed to this report.