Palestinian Statehood Returns (Ho-Hum)

Little Drama Expected as Abbas Goes Back to U.N.

Same Time This Year: With peace talk stalled, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to return to the U.N. with a new bid for statehood.
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Same Time This Year: With peace talk stalled, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to return to the U.N. with a new bid for statehood.

By Ben Lynfield

Published August 19, 2012, issue of August 24, 2012.
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A second bid by the Palestinian Authority to have the United Nations recognize Palestinian statehood appears to be a case of “once more, but with less feeling.”

The P.A., which provoked a furor in Israel last September when it pushed unsuccessfully for recognition as a state by the Security Council, will go to the body’s General Assembly this time on September 27. But unlike last time, it won’t be for full admission to the U.N. And it won’t necessarily be for a vote right now. In fact, according to many analysts, both Israeli and Palestinian, it won’t even be because P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas thinks much will come of the whole initiative, which many expect will not be voted on until November.

“Nothing else has worked, and Abu Mazen continues to search for a strategy,” Yossi Alpher, former director of Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, told the Forward, referring to Abbas by his popular moniker. “Making the U.N. application and postponing the vote till November may be a very good way for him to get through the coming months.”

The Palestinians’ current plan calls for the P.A. to appeal to the General Assembly for recognition as a non-member state, a status currently only held by the Vatican. Non-member state status would not give the Palestinians a U.N. vote, but it would accord the P.A. some indirect recognition to its claims to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It would also allow the P.A. to join U.N. agencies, and the International Criminal Court, something that could be used in bids to initiate prosecutions against Israeli soldiers or even policymakers.

The initiative is a kind of default step, Palestinian officials say, fueled by frustration with Israel’s policies.

“We just see that no one has been able to stop Israeli violations or curb measures such as the [Israeli West Bank] settlements and the annexation of Jerusalem,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a Ramallah-based spokeswoman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. “Israel has refused to recognize the 1967 boundaries as the basis of a two-state solution, so we have to go somewhere to indicate that this territory is occupied, not disputed.’’

Significantly, Ashrawi stressed that no decision has yet been made on when to put the application to a General Assembly vote. The P.A.’s foreign minister, Riyadh Al-Malki, has said only that recognition would be achieved by the end of 2012. This leaves open the possibility that a vote could be deferred until after America’s election campaign, relieving President Obama, mindful of pro-Israel voters, of the need to take a harder line in supporting Israel’s opposition to the Palestinian move.

The Obama administration has, in any event, already made clear that it opposes the Palestinian step for being unilateral. Like Israel, the U.S. views such moves by the Palestinians as a breach of the understanding that differences in the peace process are to be negotiated directly between the parties.


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