Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told US President Barack Obama on Sunday that he was intent on seeking a Palestinian upgrade at the United Nations despite American objections, a Palestinian official said.
Abbas spoke to Obama in a phone conversation to explain his decision, said Nabil Abu Rdaineh, an aide to the Palestinian president.
"President Abbas cited the reasons and motives for the Palestinian decision to seek non-member statehood as continued Israeli settlement activity and the continued attacks on Palestinians and their property," Abu Rdaineh said.
"Obama informed President Abbas of US opposition to the bid," he added.
Speaking earlier Sunday, Abbas said the UN bid would salvage the two-state solution and “confront [Israel’s] settlement onslaught.”
Addressing supporters in Ramallah during a rally marking the eighth anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, Abbas acknowledged that the PA has been facing tremendous pressure to prevent it from pursuing the unilateral bid, which is viewed as de facto UN acceptance of Palestine as a state.
“We are under pressure from several parties to make us backtrack on this right,” Abbas said. “But we will not backtrack. We are going in November 2012.”
Referring to the US and other countries that oppose the bid, Abbas said, “We want to ask all those who have endorsed the Israeli stance: Aren’t you opposed to settlements? Didn’t you vote in the Security Council and the General Assembly against Israel’s decision to annex Jerusalem? Didn’t the UN vote in favor of [General Assembly] Resolution 194, which guarantees the right of return of refugees to their homes? Didn’t you support the two-state solution and ending occupation, which began in 1967?”
Abbas said that the Palestinians were facing a “tough mission and big challenges” because of their insistence on the status upgrade this month.
“You can’t imagine how much pressure we are facing,” he added. “Our people are entitled to enjoy freedom after many years of injustice and bitter suffering. We are the last people under occupation.”
Addressing Israelis, Abbas said, “Your security depends on a just peace with us, because we are serious. If we achieve our rights, we will live with you in security and peace.
“We are here to stay on our lands. There will be no new emigration of Nakba [an Arabic term meaning “catastrophe” that refers to the war in 1948 after Israel declared independence]. Stop the settlements that are killing the two-state solution,” he said.
Abbas urged the Palestinians to be patient, and not to be afraid of the repercussions of the statehood bid.
He admitted that the Palestinians would face “grave consequences” if they insisted on pursuing the statehood bid.
“But the homeland is more important,” he declared.
Echoing Arafat’s well-known words, Abbas pledged to “continue the march until victory when the Palestinians flags are hoisted over the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem and its mosques and churches.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to explain Israel’s position against the bid when he meets on Monday with foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel.
Netanyahu has long said that Palestinian attempts to separate statehood from the peace process endanger any possibility of arriving at a two-state solution.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman finished consultations he held on Friday and Sunday in Vienna with Israeli ambassadors stationed in the 27 European Union countries.
The Palestinians already have enough international support to assure passage of their UN bid, but Israel is hoping to sway as many Western countries as possible to oppose it.
The battle has been particularly stiff in Europe where the Palestinians said they believe some 12 of the 27 EU countries will stand with them in the General Assembly.
Liberman plans to present the ambassadors’ comments to Netanyahu later this week.
During the Vienna meetings, Liberman said Abbas had consistently rejected numerous Israeli offers to renew direct negotiations without pre-conditions during the four years that Netanyahu has been in office.
Liberman said he did not believe the Palestinians planned to return to the negotiating table after the upgrade.
This is part of their plan to erode Israel’s position, he said.
Abbas has not condemned or even acknowledged the recently renewed rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, Liberman said.
His failure to do so once again raises questions as to which sector of the Palestinian population Abbas represents, if at all; what responsibility he has for these attacks and what value any arrangement with him will have, the foreign minister said.
Success of the Palestinian bid would not grant them full UN membership, which can only be given by the Security Council.
But it would provide the Palestinians with increased rights at the UN and possibly the ability to pursue Israelis at the International Criminal Court.