Palestinian flags flying by the Rawabi visitor center in the West Bank.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The Palestinian Authority invited hundreds of world leaders to celebrate the raising of its flag for the first time at the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 30.
“It will be a glorious day, a proud day for us. We expect hundreds of leaders to be with [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas to celebrate that moment,” PLO Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour told reporters in New York on Tuesday.
On that same day, Mansour said, millions of Palestinians everywhere will fly the flag as an informal referendum in support of an independent Palestine and against Israel’s continued “occupation” of the West Bank.
“There will be hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Palestinian flags raised in every house, every school, every institution,” Mansour said, adding they would even be flown atop cars.
He spoke just days after the UN General Assembly
voted 119 to 8, with 45 abstentions, to allow its two non-member states – Palestine and the Holy See – to fly their flags in front of UN buildings along with those of member states.
The Palestinian flag will be raised for the first time just after Abbas addresses the UN, as he does annually, during the opening of its 70th General Assembly.
Raising the Palestinian flag at the UN is a symbolic gesture. The UN has not accepted Palestine as a member state.
But Mansour said it was still a significant step because it provided Palestinians with a “beacon of hope” in an otherwise bleak Middle Eastern landscape.
“It will be a proud day for the Palestinian people, when we see our flag, joining the flags of the rest of the nations. That would be a significant step in the direction of our natural and legal right to become a full member at the UN,” said Mansour.
His office, he said, was working with the UN secretariat to find a location for the ceremony and to finalize its details. The flagpoles for both the Palestinian flag and that of the Vatican have already been erected, he said.
Israel and the US were among eight countries who voted against the decision. The other opposing votes were: Australia, Canada, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Tuvalu.
Ten of the 28 European Union countries voted in favor of flying the Palestinian flag, including Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The rest abstained.
Israel’s outgoing Ambassador to the UN in New York Ron Prosor made his final speech to the General Assembly against raising the Palestinian flag prior to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the resumption of direct negotiations.
“Make no mistake. The goal of this resolution is a photo op. The Palestinians want to bring together world dignitaries and the media to gather around and watch as Mahmoud Abbas raises a flag. They plan to use the prestige of the UN as a backdrop for this charade,” Prosor said. “No vote can turn an empty symbolic gesture into a state.”
The Quartet – the US, the UN, the EU and Russia – plan to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss ways to revive the peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014.
Israel has called on the Palestinians to resume talks, but the Palestinians have rejected such calls until Israel halts all building in West Bank settlements and in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
It has also insisted that any new peace process must no longer be bilateral, but should involve the international community.
“We want a collective process involving a number of parties. We can not have direct bilateral negotiations between us and the Israelis,” Mansour said Tuesday.
Prosor, however, told the UN General Assembly on Thursday, that “the international community must make it clear to the Palestinians that the only way to achieve statehood is through direct negotiations [with Israel].
As long as the Palestinians believe that they can achieve their political goals without making concessions, they will continue to avoid taking the difficult decisions needed for peace.”
He ended by stating: “I look forward to seeing the image of an Israeli prime minister and a Palestinian leader standing side by side [at the UN], raising the flags of our two peoples, living together in peace. That will be a photo truly worth taking.”