Palestinian leaders plan to shake up the 19-year-old peace process and proceed with a United Nations statehood bid next month over US objections, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said.
“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.”
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.
By forcing the statehood issue Palestinians risk jeopardizing international aid that accounts for about 14 percent of gross domestic product and inviting retaliatory measures from Israel, which captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East war.
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.”
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, told campaign donors that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to “remain an unsolved problem” and that the Palestinians are uninterested in peace. Romney made the comments at a closed fundraiser in May and they became public when a video of the event was posted September 18 by Mother Jones magazine.
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.”