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Abbas statehood move at UN 'unwise': US ambassador to UN

While the US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice described the Palestinian bid for UN membership as "unwise", thousands of flag-waving Palestinians rallied in the West Bank to show support for statehood

AP , Wednesday 21 Sep 2011
The US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice (Photo:Reuters)
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The US ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday called the Palestinian push for recognition by the world body "an unwise and diversionary gambit."

"There is no shortcut to statehood," said Susan Rice, who added that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should back away from his push for recognition by the UNRice acknowledged in an interview on CBS's "The Early Show" that the US believes Abbas will proceed with his plan, nevertheless.

But in an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday, the ambassador said the statehood effort "won't succeed" at the Security Council because Abbas would need "nine affirmative votes and no vetoes."

Rice said that Israel and the Palestinians must resolve the problem at the bargaining table, arguing that lingering differences exist between the two sides over security, borders, the capital city and the Palestinian refugees.

And she said the Obama administration is concerned about a "great gap between the expectations of the Palestinian people and the reality" of the situation.

However, on the other hand, Thousands of flag-waving Palestinians rallied Wednesday in towns across the West Bank to show support for their president's bid to win UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

The gatherings were carefully orchestrated, with civil servants and schoolchildren given time off to participate. Despite the largely low-key mood, a new poll indicated an overwhelming majority supports President Mahmoud Abbas' quest for UN recognition of a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War.

Some said they were dismayed by the US pledge to block the Palestinians, if necessary by a veto in the UN Security Council. In Ramallah, the crowd cheered when a masked youth on a stage burned a US flag before being led away by Palestinian security forces.

"We want to live in dignity," said Atallah Wahbeh, a 60-year-old shopkeeper in Ramallah. He said it was important that the UN recognize a Palestinian state, even if there are repercussions, such as a possible cut in American aid.

"We don't need the Americans to buy us with money," he said.

The rallies were held far from possible friction points with Israeli troops, though in two locations small groups of boys broke away and threw stones at Israeli troops who responded with tear gas.

In the city of Hebron, where several hundred Jewish settlers live in a heavily fortified downtown enclave, dozens of Palestinian riot police eventually dispersed the stone throwers.

Abbas has called for peaceful marches in support of statehood, and Israeli security officials have scaled back forecasts of widespread violence.

Near Karnei Shomron, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, an assailant fired on an Israeli car, causing damage but no injuries, the Israeli military said.

Abbas is to address the UN General Assembly later this week and request full UN membership. With peace talks deadlocked for the past three years, the Palestinians believe a strong international endorsement will improve their position in future negotiations.

Israel and the US say a Palestinian state can be established only through negotiations.

Abbas has said negotiations remain his preference, but he will only resume talks if Israel agrees to the pre-1967 lines serving as a starting point and if it halts all settlement construction. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says talks should begin without preconditions.

"We went to the UN because we are tired of negotiations for the sake of negotiations," Abbas aide Tayeb Abdel Rahim told the rally in Ramallah.

The new poll found that 83 percent of Palestinians believe Abbas' recognition quest is a good idea, even though nearly as many — 78 percent — expect it will make their daily lives more difficult. The survey, conducted last week by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, included 1,200 respondents and had an error margin of 3 percentage points.

The UN bid is seen by many Palestinians as a last option after two uprisings and two decades of on-and-off negotiations with Israel failed to produce a state, said pollster Khalil Shikaki.

Two-thirds of Palestinians favor peaceful protests, while one-third says the Palestinians should resume armed struggle, according to Shikaki's poll.

Still, some worried about possible repercussions from the US or Israel. Members of Congress have threatened to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid to the Palestinians.

Palestinians fear Israeli troops could tighten West Bank checkpoints or that Israel could suspend the transfer of tax funds it collects on behalf of the Palestinians.

"Now the Israelis will have more reasons to send us back from checkpoints, to tell us 'go back to your state'," said Mahmoud Khalil, a 30-year-old from Ramallah.

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