Ahead of Abbas speech, still unclear where PA is headed

Israeli officials say UN Security Council statehood bid may be held up, not certain PA will take measure to General Assembly; Quartet tries to bring sides back to the negotiation table.

Binyamin Netanyahu and Laura Miranda (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Binyamin Netanyahu and Laura Miranda
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Fierce US resistance, as well as even some European opposition, may force Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to jettison plans to bring his statehood bid either to the UN Security Council or the General Assembly anytime soon, Israeli diplomatic officials said on Thursday.
The comments came some 24 hours before Abbas was finally expected to reveal his hand during a much-anticipated speech to the General Assembly. During that speech he is expected to say whether he is going forward with a request to the Security Council for full UN membership, as he has said he would do; whether he would be satisfied with an upgrade for “Palestine” from observer to nonmember-state observer in the General Assembly; or whether he will pursue both initiatives.
Israeli leftists demonstrate for PA statehood in TA
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According to the officials, a proposal floated by Quartet envoy Tony Blair and first reported last week in The Jerusalem Post would have Abbas submit a formal request, via Secretary-General Ban Kimoon, to the Security Council.
Ban, however, will not immediately pass the request on, giving the Quartet – the US, EU, Russia and UN – time to come up with a statement agreed upon by both sides that would form the parameters for relaunching negotiations.
The benefit of this proposal, the officials said, is that it would allow Abbas a face-saving way out of forcing a vote at the Security Council, since formally he will have done what he promised the Palestinians: Submit a request to the Security Council.
The question then would become whether he would go to the General Assembly seeking an upgrade.
While it is clear that the Palestinians would win a vote in the General Assembly by a large margin, since a simple majority would be all that was needed there, diplomatic officials said some European countries were pressing him to refrain from going to the General Assembly because it would split the EU at a time when it is trying to project an image of unity on key foreign-policy issues.
In any event, a General Assembly vote on this would likely not take place for a number of weeks, to allow the drafting of a resolution that would get as wide support as possible.
In the meantime, the Quartet would continue working on a formula for relaunching the negotiations that might make going to the General Assembly unnecessary.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s efforts to get the EU to vote as a bloc on the Palestinian proposal at the UN have not borne fruit, and according to diplomatic officials, a number of countries such as Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Poland may vote with the US, Canada, Israel and several other countries against a Palestinian measure in the General Assembly.
Sarkozy, in his speech on Wednesday to the General Assembly, supported admitting the Palestinians into the UN as a nonmember state, but opposed full membership.
France is one of six countries on the Security Council (in addition to the US) that both Israel and the US are trying to persuade to vote against granting full membership in the UN, thereby making it unnecessary for the US to use its veto.