Representatives of various Palestinian factions on Thursday delivered a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon in support of accepting a Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, seemingly kicking off the PA’s September UN maneuver.
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Palestinian Authority officials denied that the letter was an official request to the UN to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines. They said that the factions decided to deliver the letter as part of a popular campaign in support of the statehood bid.
The factions chose to launch their campaign in front of the UN offices in Ramallah.
Latifa Abu Hmeid, the mother of seven Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, was chosen to deliver the letter to the UN secretary- general. Another one of her sons was shot and killed by the IDF.
The letter sought Ban’s backing for turning a Palestinian state into the 194th member of the UN. It said that Palestinians will continue to carry out various activities to support the statehood bid ahead of the vote in the UN on the PA’s application for recognition of a state later this month.
The letter stated that the Palestinians were aspiring to achieve their right to freedom and dignity through the establishment of a state on the June 4, 1967, lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital. The letter also made it clear that the Palestinians are demanding the right of return to their families’ original homes inside Israel.
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said that it was time that the world “heard the voice of our people and stopped our suffering.” He called on the UN and the international community to facilitate the membership request of the Palestinian state in the UN.
An Israeli government official said in response that “it is clear that you can’t dictate peace from the outside. Peace can, and must, only be negotiated between the parties – there is no substitute for that.”
The official said that by avoiding negotiations with Israel and embarking on an “adventure that has the potential to destabilize the situation,” the Palestinian leadership was “failing its own people.”
Government officials said that “endless” meetings were taking place looking at the range of possible scenarios and planning various responses.
“September for us is not a month, but an action item,” the official said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position is to keep Israel’s options very close to his chest. Israel has no intention, officials said, of revealing how it would react to the Palestinian move, waiting to see how matters develop on the ground before deciding what counteractions to take.
Among the possible responses that have been bandied about are declaring the Oslo accords null and void, or annexing the major settlement blocs to Israel. Numerous other less extreme responses are also on the table.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, speaking at an IDF ceremony in Zichron Ya’acov, called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to return to negotiations for the sake of “all our children and grandchildren. I call on the leaders of the international community to contribute what they can to ensuring that this happens.”
The PLO Executive Committee, meanwhile, announced that the Palestinians will proceed with their statehood bid. The announcement was made following a meeting of the committee headed by Abbas.
PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo said that the PA believes that the statehood initiative would help revive the peace process in order to achieve a two-state solution on the basis of the pre-1967 lines.
The PLO also urged Palestinians to launch peaceful campaigns in support of the statehood plan.
The PLO accused Israel of misleading and frightening the Israeli public.
The establishment of a Palestinian state and ending occupation does not harm Israeli legitimacy, the PLO said in a statement. On the contrary, it said, this is the only way to secure the security of all people in this region.
Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, stressed that Israeli and US opposition to the statehood plan won’t deter the PA leadership from going to the Security Council and the General Assembly.
He said that Abbas told US envoy David Hale during their meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday that the Palestinians don’t want a clash with the US.
The US announced officially on Thursday that it would veto a Palestinian request for state recognition if it is submitted to the UN Security Council later this month.
Wendy Sherman, President Barack Obama’s nominee for undersecretary of state for policy, the department’s third-ranking position, told the Senate during confirmation hearings that if any such resolution were put in front of the Security Council, the US would veto it.
“The United States is very resolved to a veto threat in the Security Council," Sherman said. “What we are very resolved about as well is urging the parties to enter into direct negotiations again.”
Israel applauded Sherman’s statement, with one official saying that “we welcome that as an important statement, and we have reason to believe that the US will not be alone in opposing the move.”
Israel has been actively lobbying the 27-member EU against supporting the PA at the UN, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas are expected to arrive in Israel next week to discuss the matter. Germany and the Czech Republic are two of the countries on record as opposing the PA move.
In addition, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected to come to the region for additional meetings next week, her second time here in less than three weeks.
While the EU foreign ministers held an informal meeting last week in Poland, Western diplomat officials said they were still far from reaching a consensus on their position, and the EU’s voting on this matter – whether it will split on this issue or vote as a unified block – depended to a large degree on what resolution the Palestinians will ultimately bring to the UN.
The officials added that the Europeans were not actively involved in writing the resolution for the Palestinians in a way that would enable EU support, and that various EU leaders have impressed on the Palestinians the need to return to talks.