RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday he would be ready for negotiations with Israel "straightaway" if the UN recognized Palestine as a non-member state.
His comments appeared to be another attempt to assure the United States that the Palestinian campaign for status change at the UN is not an attempt to circumvent bilateral talks with Israel deadlocked since 2010 over settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
"We have resolved to go to the UN to save the two-state solution and to achieve the rights of our people as an observer state," Abbas told reporters during a visit by the Bulgarian president to the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"We're ready to go back to negotiations straightaway. Going to the UN is not a substitute for negotiations. We are in need of negotiations to solve the final status of issues that face us both," he said.
PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi also said on Wednesday the Palestinians are pursuing the UN bid to upgrade Palestine to state status as a ways of “preventing further instability...and to save the chances for peace.”
In a meeting with US Consul General Michael Ratney in Jerusalem, Ashrawi added that it is important for the international community to "support our right to self-determination and freedom before all chances for an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital are destroyed."
In a speech to the UN General Assembly last month, Abbas sought so-called "non-member state" status in the world body, a grade below the full recognition that eluded the Palestinians at the UN Security Council last year, due to insufficient backing.
Meanwhile, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat detailed his plan to shake up the 19-year-old peace process and proceed with a United Nations statehood bid next month
“It’s a moment of truth,” Erakat said in an interview at his West Bank office in Ramallah. “We’re determined to change the status quo.”
in spite of US objections.
The move to upgrade the Palestine Liberation Organization’s status to that of a “non-member state” in the UN General Assembly comes a year after the failed effort to obtain full membership through the Security Council, a step the Obama administration blocked.
The Palestinian bid to upgrade its observer status at the UN is likely to pass the General Assembly, where the US has no veto as it does in the Security Council, Erakat said.
If the vote succeeds, “Palestine will become a nation under occupation,” Erakat said. “The moment we get this, every single thing Israel does in East Jerusalem or the West Bank will become null and void.”
Upgrading their status in the General Assembly would enable the Palestinians to join other UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court, where they could ask for Israel to be tried for war crimes, Erakat said.
“Israel’s main worry is the ICC,” said Erakat, who declined to specify whether they would proceed with the action. “They don’t want me to have a sword on their neck.”
Israeli leaders are concerned that a Palestinian victory at the General Assembly will bring a “new onslaught” against the Jewish state, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a telephone interview when asked about Erakat’s comments.
“It will accomplish nothing except for poisoning the atmosphere so that it will be impossible to resume negotiations,” he said.
If the two-state solution fails, Erakat says Israel will find itself by 2018 in control of a single “apartheid” state in which Palestinians outnumber the Jewish population.
“Mr. Netanyahu can’t maintain the status quo,” he said. “We aren’t going anywhere.”
In response to the UN bid, Israeli officials have threatened financial sanctions against Abbas's Palestinian Authority, which is dependent on Israeli-transferred customs duties and Western aid.
Local elections in the West Bank this week brought gains to dissidents within Abbas's ruling Fatah party. And a visit to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday by Qatar's ruler also dealt a blow to the Palestinian Authority, which lost control of the enclave to the Islamist group in 2007.