Photo: United Nations Photo via Flikr
The Palestinian leadership has decided to defy a personal plea from President Barack Obama and go ahead with a bid for elevated status at the United Nations General Assembly.After winning re-election, Mr Obama called Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, on Sunday to ask him to defer his application for “non-member” status of the UN.
But Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian envoy for the UN bid, insisted yesterday that the application would be lodged no later than Nov 29, an international day of “Palestinian solidarity”.
“It is not enough for [Obama] to ask us not to go to the UN. What is it that anyone is offering us? There is no offer on the table from any side except ‘don’t do it’,” said Mr Shtayyeh in Ramallah, the PA’s unofficial capital, yesterday.
He explained how the Palestinian leadership had honoured a request from Washington to “pause” their application in February 2012 in order to avoid this becoming a US election issue. But it would not be postponed “under any circumstances”, he said.
The draft application, which is currently circulating among 193 UN member states, requests non-member status of the General Assembly for Palestine. If successful, the Palestinians would then have access to UN institutions including the International Criminal Court. Mr Shtayyeh said the aim was to place pressure on Israel to freeze all settlement activity in the Occupied Territories and return to negotiations.
A meeting of Arab foreign ministers will convene in Cairo tomorrow to decide a final date for the submission, which will be announced by Nabil al-Arabi, chairman of the Arab League.
Israel and America both oppose the Palestinian bid, which Israel has denounced as “diplomatic terrorism” and Washington claims will undermine negotiations for a two-state solution to the conflict.
Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, who lives in Nokdim settlement in the occupied West Bank, has warned that his country possesses a “tool box” of possible responses to a Palestinian UN application, including the end of economic co-operation and revoking Palestinian work permits in Israel.
Mr Shtayyeh dismissed these as “empty threats”, claiming that Israel had a vested interest in the survival of the Palestinian Authority.
“It seems to us we have been asked to choose between bread and freedom. I say to you our choice is both. Of course we need bread, but we need freedom as well,” he said.
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