The Palestinian Authority on Monday denounced threats to impose sanctions on the
Palestinians in response to their effort to upgrade their status at the UN to
that of a non-member state.
Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah
Central Committee who is closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas,
said he saw no reason why the Palestinians should be punished for embarking on a
“peaceful and legitimate step.”
His remarks came during a press
conference at the PLO offices in al-Bireh.
Also on Monday, Abbas headed
to Saudi Arabia for talks on the UN statehood bid with King Abdullah and senior
Abbas’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes as part of his
efforts to secure Arab backing for his plan to ask the UN to upgrade the
Palestinian status, a move that is seen as a de facto recognition of
The UN General Assembly can’t grant the Palestinians full
membership in the international body, but the upgrade will increase their rights
and possibly allow them to pursue Israelis at the International Criminal
At the press briefing, Shtayyeh said that Abbas was scheduled to
attend a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Tuesday to seek
their backing for the statehood bid, which he said would take place before the
end of the month.
The Fatah official said that all the Arab countries
have promised to vote in favor of the Palestinian application to the UN General
“Going to the UN is a peaceful and legitimate step,” Shtayyeh
explained. “We are going to an international organization that is a symbol for
peace and security.”
Israel has opposed the unilateral move, urging the
Palestinians to return immediately to the negotiating table. It has warned that
it is dangerous to the prospects of peace to separate the issue of Palestinian
statehood from a negotiated twostate solution.
Jerusalem has threatened
to take retaliatory measures against the PA, should it make good on their pledge
to head to the UN. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has threatened economic
sanctions, including withholding tax fees.
“We disapprove of the talk
about sanctions. It is shameful to talk about sanctions. This is the first step
toward political independence and the establishment of a Palestinian state with
Jerusalem as its capital,” Shtayyeh said.
He said that Palestinians could
not understand the “frantic campaign” being waged against the PA’s statehood
“This is an insult to the UN because it is an organization that was
established to defend peace and stability in the world,” he said. “It should be
taken into consideration that Israel was established according to a UN
Shtayyeh said that Palestinians were being asked to choose
between bread and freedom.
“We want both,” he declared.
want bread, but Palestinians are prepared to make big sacrifices to end the
occupation and achieve freedom and independence.”
However, Shtayyeh said
that he did not expect Israel to impose financial sanctions on the Palestinians
out of fear that such a move would lead to the collapse of the PA, which would
mean chaos, he warned.
“Israel will then pay the price,” he
He described Israeli threats to withhold tax revenues belonging to
the PA as “empty threats.” Shtayyeh said that Israel may delay payments to the
PA, “but will not stop them. This could lead to the collapse of the PA and I
don’t think that Israel would be able to bear the
According to the Fatah official, the “Palestinian train
has already set on its journey and demands to prevent us from going to the UN
The decision to go to the UN is aimed at exerting
pressure on Israel to stop its measures on the ground and return to the
negotiating table, he said.
On Sunday, Abbas rejected US President Barack
Obama’s request to refrain from going to the UN, PA officials in Ramallah said.
Obama made the request during a phone call with Abbas, the officials
Obama stressed that he did not support the Palestinians taking
unilateral steps at the United Nations.
He made his comments after
returning Abbas’s congratulatory message following Obama’s reelection last week.
During the phone call, he referred to the “partnership” between the two leaders
and his desire to continue their close cooperation.
However, during the
conversation, he reiterated the United States’ “opposition to unilateral efforts
at the United Nations.”
Obama also noted that he remains committed to
finding Middle East peace and supports direct negotiations for a two-state
solution as the path to that end.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said
on Monday that there were “big differences” between the PA and the US over the
Erekat told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station that
the US administration was threatening to impose severe financial sanctions on
the Palestinians and close down the PLO office in Washington if the Palestinians
insisted on pursuing their statehood bid.
“We don’t want to clash with
the US,” Erekat said. “But they must work to stop Israeli dictates, the terror
of settlers and the Judaization of Jerusalem.”
He said that the PA was
taking the US threats seriously and consulting with the Arab countries about the
Erekat said that the US had cut off funds to the PA about
one year ago.
“The Palestinian Authority hasn’t received financial aid
from the US since the end of October 2011, when Palestine was admitted to
UNESCO,” he disclosed.
Hilary Leila Krieger and Tovah Lazaroff
contributed to this report.