Israel, Palestinians head for UN statehood showdown

A Palestinian woman throws a blanket onto a pile of her family’s belongings after the Israeli army demolished houses in the northern West Bank village of Al Aqabeh on Thursday (AP photo by Mohammed Ballas)

“Despite the pressures that we face, Palestine goes to the UN on the 23rd of this month to seek admission as a full member,” Abbas told Egyptian TV on Wednesday, as quoted by Agence France-Presse.

On Thursday Netanyahu announced that he too would address the United Nations, to set out Israel’s objections to the manoeuvre.

“The approach to the United Nations to seek full membership for the state of Palestine is a done deal and irreversible,” Abbas said, following discussions with the diplomatic Quartet’s envoy Tony Blair.

The latest comments from the two sides come amid a diplomatic flurry, with envoys from the United States, the European Union and the Quartet holding talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in an effort to get them back into direct peace talks that stalled a year ago.

“We will see if any of them is carrying a credible offer that will allow us to look into it seriously,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Malki told foreign journalists in Ramallah on Thursday.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Netanyahu on Wednesday and Thursday after talks with Abbas in Egypt. US envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale met with Abbas in Ramallah Thursday evening, according to AFP.

“We are open to any suggestions or ideas that could come from any side in order to renew negotiations on a firm basis with clear terms of reference, a clear timetable and clear guarantees,” Malki said.

“So far we see no proposal that requires that we look seriously,” he added. “The meeting yesterday with Tony Blair brought about nothing new.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called on Palestinians to return to talks with Israel and said the peace deadlock is harming the whole Middle East, AFP reported.

He said Israel’s approval of permits for new settlements in the occupied territories “has not been helpful”, noting that “at the same time, Palestinians should also try to sit together with Israeli people”.

The Palestinian bid is strongly opposed by both Israel and the United States who say the only route to a Palestinian state is through bilateral talks.

“Israel wants peace, and for the past two-and-a-half years has been attempting to conduct negotiations,” Netanyahu said at a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas in Jerusalem.

“I decided to bring this message in a speech that I shall make to the General Assembly of the UN to which I shall travel next week,” he said.

Palestinian officials say they are not planning on unilaterally declaring a state as they did in Algiers in 1988, nor are they seeking UN recognition for their state, which has already been recognised by 127 countries.

But they want to secure UN membership for a state based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, including Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – as the 194th member state.

The United States has already vowed to veto the move in the Security Council.

‘Equitable footing’

With Europe divided on the issue, Ashton has been leading efforts to find a solution which would avoid a showdown but ensure that the Palestinians do not leave New York empty-handed.

In June, she suggested Brussels was seeking some kind of resolution at the General Assembly which could be worded in such a way that it would gain the support of all 27 EU member states, AFP reported.

Reuters quoted EU diplomats as saying on Thursday that the European Union hopes to persuade Palestinian leaders to drop plans for full United Nations membership this month in return for a nuanced upgrading of their UN observer status.


Categories: Israel, Palestine

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