Palestine is expected to submit a formal letter requesting United Nations membership Friday, after the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the General Assembly.
Meanwhile, Israel and the United States hope to avoid any such showdown at the U.N. and instead focus on peace talks between the two Middle Eastern countries.
Abbas has received pressure from outsiders to drop the request, but claims he won’t be deterred from seeking what he feels is Palestine’s right. The majority of the world is expected to vote symbolically in favor of Palestinian independence. The territories seeking to be called the state of Palestine reside in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and land captured by Israel in the 1967 war.
In order to be granted U.N. membership, a letter from the candidate state must be submitted to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, affirming that it is a “peace-loving” state that accepts the U.N. charter. However, full membership can only be obtained through a vote from the Security Council. Palestine must receive at least nine out of 15 votes and no vetoes. According to CBS, Abbas believes that 11 members of the Security Council will support Palestine. The U.S. has promised it will use its veto power if necessary; however, if the U.S. vetoes the statehood that is backed by the majority of the world, America’s already-tarnished image in the Middle East will likely suffer.
Britain and France, permanent members of the U.N., have not disclosed how they will vote.
The U.S. and Israel oppose a U.N. vote, saying that peace can only come through negotiations and that the vote will hinder efforts to move forward.
Abbas has said that negotiations remain his preference, but that they must be based on the pre-1967 war lines and include a halt of all Israeli settlement construction on occupied land. Using pre-1967 war lines is a condition most Israelis find non-negotiable. To Abbas, negotiations seem to be going nowhere and a bid to the U.N. seems like the last viable option. However, according to The Washington Post, Abbas does not view a U.N. bid as counterproductive and said that even if his demands in the peace talks were agreed upon, he would still “go to the U.N. because there is no contradiction between negotiations and going to the U.N.”
Even so, Paul Larudee of the Free Palestine Movement does not consider the U.N. vote on Palestine’s statehood important because the vote would be symbolic.
“I think the prospects of gaining statehood in the short term are slim. In the long term, it’s almost certain,” Larudee said.
“In the short term, the U.N. recognition of a state is not going to bring that state into being in a practical way. There will be no immediate ground results.”
Obama was scheduled to arrive in New York Monday evening. It is not clear yet whether he has a plan to convince the Palestinians to drop their bid. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive Wednesday, when the U.N. gathering formally opens.
Reports from Washington officials conclude that the White House and other Western leaders are willing to address Palestinian concerns. The possibility of including timeframes – however vague – that would focus on the restart of Israeli-Palestinian talks and signs of tangible progress, once negotiations begin, according to CBS News. This is in hopes to satisfy the Palestinian desire for quick action; the timeframes would come with an understanding that the U.S. will use its veto at the Security Council, “but at the very least it would represent a dignity-saving compromise for Abbas' U.S.-backed government.”
According to Larudee, not all Palestinians are eager for a U.N. approval.
“Like the existence of the Palestinian Authority, U.N. recognition may advance the cause of a de-facto state. What many Palestinians are saying is that a Palestinian state declared by the U.N. may have detrimental effect in terms of the majority of Palestinians who do not live in Palestine but live in exile. A creation of a state might result it representing only those in the state,” he said.
He said that many Palestinians view the Palestinian Authority, which was created in 1993, as a hindrance to their cause and fear that the U.N. vote may result in the same.
“It leads people to believe that Palestinians are self-governing and they have their own freedom. In fact, it’s the opposite; they have very little freedom to exercise. Israel is the de-facto ruler,” Larudee said.“[A U.N. approval] has the all trappings without any of the contents.”
“The important thing is to get rid of segregation based on ethnicity, religion, and race. Regardless of the number of states that exist in the region, no group should be given preference over another. When these human rights are recognized in equality, when the two states accept human rights and implement them, then the rest of the solution will become very simple.”