PA should delay UN statehood bid, says PLO official

Nabil Amr calls on Palestinian leadership to delay statehood plan by a year out of fear it will harm relations with US and EU.

Nabil Amr 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Nabil Amr 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority leadership has climbed a very high tree with its plan to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines in September, Nabil Amr, member of the PLO Central Council and a former PA minister, said on Tuesday.
“The leadership does not have any guarantees that it would be able to climb down safely from the tree,” he cautioned, advising the PA to delay the statehood by another year.
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Amr is the first senior PLO official to publicly express reservations about the PA’s statehood bid.
Several other senior officials in the West Bank are also believed to oppose the move, but have refrained from voicing their views in public.
Amr called on the PA leadership to delay the statehood plan by another year out of fear that it would harm Palestinian relations with the US and many EU countries that oppose the plan.
He said he would advise Abbas during the upcoming meeting of the PLO Central Council to reconsider his plan and postpone it until next year.
“The council will discuss the September [statehood] issue and the intention to go to the UN,” Amr, a former PA minister of information and envoy to Egypt, told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.
“I personally will advise the leadership to delay the UN bid by another year so that we would be able to make better preparations than what has been done until now,” he said.
Amr expressed hope that the delay would create a better climate for the resumption of the peace process “in line with the interests of the Palestinians.”
He said the PA was taking a risk by going to the UN “despite the opposition of major parties in the international arena.”
The PA leadership has failed to correctly assess the reactions of these major parties to the statehood plan, he said.
Amr warned that the Palestinians could lose many of their close friends if they insisted on proceeding with the statehood initiative. He said he was opposed to “creating a state of confrontation between the Palestinians and the US over the UN application.
“The Americans have not hidden their position and threats to impose sanctions not only against us, but also against those who would vote in favor of the statehood plan,” he continued. “On the face of it, this is an immoral issue. But in essence it would cause us some damage.”
Amr said he was not alone in demanding the PA leadership postpone the statehood plan. The Palestinians, he added, should prepare well for the UN initiative “to avoid losing this card.” Amr did not rule out the possibility that the 116 members of the PLO Central Council, who are expected to hold a meeting in Ramallah on July 27, would nevertheless approve the plan to go to the UN in September.
PA negotiator Nabil Sha’ath said the PA was determined to go ahead with its statehood plan notwithstanding the opposition of some Palestinians, the US and a number of EU countries.
“We are serious about going to the UN and we won’t backtrack in light of the failure of the peace negotiations [with Israel],” Sha’ath said during a meeting with the French consul-general in Jerusalem.
Sha’ath urged the EU to support the statehood bid and play a major role in the peace process “in wake of the failure of the US to exert pressure on Israel because of Washington’s preoccupation with internal affairs.”
One Israeli government official responded to Amr’s statement saying that “anyone who knows the reality, understands the UN path is a dead end, and the only way to peace and Palestinian statehood is through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”
The official said similar messages have been heard from foreign leaders, following their talks with Palestinian officials. At the same time, however, the official said no one in Israel is going on the assumption that the PA is going to pull back from its UN bid at the last minute.
“There is no optimism about that,” he said.
At the same time, the official said, Israeli and US officials were “working seriously” to find options that would obviate the need for the PA to go to the UN.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, gave his first pan-Arab interview on Tuesday, sitting down in his office for 30 minutes with the Saudi-owned, Dubai based network Al Arabiya.
The message Netanyahu tried to convey in the interview was he has the will to reach a peace agreement, and the political ability to get the Israeli public to accept it.
He said the Palestinians were making a mistake in refusing to engage and negotiate with him, and that two years have been wasted.
The decision to do the interview was an effort by Netanyahu to get his message directly to a massive Arab audience, officials in the PMO said. Although Al Jazeera is the largest and most influential network, it was decided to go with the competitor because it “has more of a tradition of straight news, less incitement,” one official said. He said Al Jazeera has played a negative role in its coverage of Israel and the region.
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