Palestine submits bid for full UN membership

Updated: 2011-09-24 07:32

(China Daily)

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UNITED NATIONS - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday gave UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon an application for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood, a move opposed by the United States and Israel, a UN spokesman said.

Abbas met Ban at UN headquarters to present the formal request to the UN Security Council, which is expected to take time to consider it.

Palestine submits bid for full UN membership

A Palestinian woman holds up a sticker which reads: "UN 194 Palestinian State" during a rally in support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' bid for statehood recognition in the United Nations (UN), at Mar Elias camp for Palestinian refugees in Beirut Sept 23, 2011. [Photo/Agencies] 

His appeal to the council reflects a loss of faith after 20 years of failed peace talks sponsored by the US, Israel's main ally, and alarm at relentless Israeli settlement expansion that is eating into the land Palestinians want for a state.

It would be impossible for the US to push Israel back to the negotiating table before its own elections in 2012, said Hua Liming, former ambassador in the Middle East and a researcher at the Chinese Institution of International Studies.

"Meanwhile the upheavals in Arab countries have prompted mass discontent with the unstable politics in Palestine, which has added to the urgency to seek UN membership as an authority," he added.

It also exposes Washington's dwindling influence in a region shaken by Arab uprisings and shifting alliances that have pushed Israel, for all its military muscle, deeper into isolation.

Abbas will set out his case in a speech to the UN General Assembly, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also take the podium to argue that only direct negotiations between the two sides can lead to a Palestinian state.

Given the high possibility the US will veto Palestine's proposal to seek full membership, it was suggested that Palestine could go for a second choice - be upgraded from an observer entity to a non-member state.

This only requires a simple majority vote in favor in the 193-member General Assembly, and the chance is good because over two-thirds of UN member states have recognized Palestine's statehood since it announced itself an independent state in 1988.

The Palestinians welcomed the suggestion and promised that the idea would be "studied in depth".

Israel, however, rejected this compromise proposal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Yigal Palmor said being upgraded from an observer entity to a non-member state would be equivalent to granting them recognition as a state.

"In this situation, we cannot pretend that Israel did not exist," he said.

Israeli cabinet secretary Tzvi Hauser also rejected the idea as premature.

"But there is another approach, that considers the Palestinian state as a condition for starting negotiations, which would be a platform for launching other claims," he said.

"It is impossible that there would first be a Palestinian state and only from that will we be able to start negotiating."

Palestine becoming a full member state or being upgraded to a non-member state would lead to huge pressure on the US and Israel, observers said.

"(A non-member statehood) would authorize Palestine with rights in the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court, which would gain weight for Palestine in dealing with militant conflicts with Israel," said Hua.

"The problem is not statehood, but disputes over capital cities and the 60 million Arab refugees in the West Bank," said Gong Shaopeng, a professor from China Foreign Affairs University.

China on Tuesday reiterated its support for Palestine, saying it "understands, respects and supports Palestine's bid for a UN member state".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also urged the international community to promote an early resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

Some 22,000 Israeli police and border police were on high alert across the country on Friday, poised to respond to any unrest resulting from the bid.

The forces were deployed along the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank, in annexed east Jerusalem, and around Arab Israeli towns, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Earlier this week, tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied across the West Bank in a massive show of support for the UN campaign, but there was little sign of any unrest and only isolated incidents of stone throwing.

More gatherings are planned for Friday evening when Palestinians are expected to turn out en masse to watch Abbas' speech to the UN General Assembly on large screens in towns and cities across the West Bank.

Palestinian officials have repeatedly pledged that the marches and demonstrations will be peaceful and stay within Palestinian-controlled areas.

Reuters - AFP - China Daily