Netanyahu says he'll address UN ahead of PA state vote

PM calls on Abbas to return to talks; Palestinians send mixed messages as to whether they will petition Security Council or General Assembly.

September 15, 2011 20:12
3 minute read.
Netanyahu speaks at Thursday's press conference

Netanyahu speaks press conference 311. (photo credit: Ben Spier)


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After weeks of deliberation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Thursday that he would go to a United Nations General Assembly meeting next week to discuss the Palestinian statehood bid.

Speaking at a press conference with visiting Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas, Netanyahu said he will "speak the truth to those who want to hear it" at the UN General Assembly.

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Netanyahu said that the General Assembly is not "the place where Israel generally gets a reasonable hearing," but it was nonetheless important to present Israel's position.

For weeks there was internal debate inside the Prime Minister's Office whether he should go, or whether Israel should be represented by President Shimon Peres.

One government official said only this week that the decision would be based on whether Netanyahu felt he could have any impact on the European countries whose position on the matter has yet to be decided.

The prime minister also called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to bring the matter to the UN, but rather to return to peace negotiations with Israel.

When asked how his country planned to vote on the statehood bid, Czech Prime Minister
Petr Nečas said, "I would like to emphasis that at this moment I am unfamiliar with the format and context of the request."

The press conference came after Netanyahu held late-night meetings Wednesday with US envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale, and with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, in an effort to head off what one diplomatic official termed a “diplomatic train wreck” at the UN.

EU diplomats said on Thursday said that the European Union hopes to persuade Palestinian leaders to drop their plans for full UN membership in return for a nuanced upgrading of their UN observer status.

Diplomats said Ashton was trying to negotiate a package that could include a statement by the Quartet of Middle East negotiators laying out guidelines for future talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Diplomats in Brussels said Ashton's proposal included a text that would not rule out full UN membership for a Palestinian state in the future, but focuses for now on a lesser upgrade of their status coupled with a specific mention of talks.

The last-ditch efforts to avoid the PA's United Nation's bid came as Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said on Thursday said on Thursday that Abbas would "present the official request for the state of Palestine to be granted full membership” to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Septemebr 23 in New York.

Malki was contradicted later on Thursday by PA envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, who told reporters the Palestinians were still "fine-tuning our options" on what to do next week in regards to the PA's bid for UN recognition.

"The final decision will be taken in the next few days as to which path we would follow, whether it is through the Security Council for full membership or whether through the General Assembly" for a lesser upgrade of status, he said.

An aide to Netanyahu said the prime minister  would address the forum on September 23 and that efforts were under way to try to arrange meetings with US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Thursday expressed doubt as to the effectiveness of Netanyahu's decision to speak at the General Assembly.

"I am fine with him going, but he will not affect any real change," Livni stated in an interview with Israel Radio. "To change things you must act and not just give a speech," she added, reiterating her position that the government must act to renew negotiations with the Palestinians and the failure to do so has led to the Palestinian UN bid. staff, Ben Spier, Felice Friedson and Reuters contributed to this report.

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