Palestinians keeping options open on U.N.

Reuters , Monday 5 Sep 2011

Hanan Ashrawi,a leading member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), says the Palestinians have to decide how they will press their statehood agenda at the United Nations this month

The leading member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation(PLO)Hanan Ashrawi(Photo:AP)

The Palestinians have yet to decide how they will press their statehood agenda at the United Nations this month, a Palestinian official said, indicating less certainty than had previously been signalled on details of the plan.

Hanan Ashrawi, a leading member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said the U.N. initiative was a step towards "breaking Israel's power hold over us and the American monopoly over peacemaking".

She also warned of "hysterical" Israeli responses to the diplomatic move, adding that reports of the Israeli army training Jewish settlers to confront possible Palestinian protests was a step "that could blow up in all our faces".

With the U.S.-backed peace process at a standstill, the Palestinians are heading to the U.N. General Assembly in New York with the aim of securing an upgrade to their current status as just an observer entity.

The Palestinians say the step is an attempt to strengthen their position before any resumption of peace talks aimed at securing their independence in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Israel, which captured that land in 1967, sees the U.N. move as an attempt to undermine its own legitimacy. The United States, its closest ally, is opposed to the initiative, saying only bilateral talks can resolve the decades-old conflict.

Palestinian officials have said they will apply for full U.N. membership for Palestine -- a move diplomats say will draw a U.S. veto in the Security Council and strain ties with Washington, a major donor to the aid-dependent PA.

The Palestinian foreign ministry said last month President Mahmoud Abbas would submit the application during the meeting.

But Ashrawi, who is traveling to New York as part of the Palestinian delegation, said there was no decision as yet.

"We have several options and alternatives and we are keeping all our options and alternatives open. We are still discussing with all our friends ... the best, most effective means of addressing the U.N. and getting membership," she told Reuters.

"Hopefully we will take the decision soon but we will take it when we are in New York because we do not want to preempt any moves by having people trying to subvert our efforts."

Abbas has despatched Ashrawi overseas in recent efforts to secure the broadest possible support for the U.N. initiative. She said the Palestinians now had recognitions from around 126 states -- a number which could grow to more than 130.

Given the certainty of failure in the Security Council, the Palestinians' best hope of success is to table a General Assembly resolution that would upgrade their status to that of "a non-member state" -- equal to the standing of the Vatican.

Ashrawi said: "The Security Council is an option, the General Assembly is an option, full statehood is our objective. Even if we go through the General Assembly, we will also pursue full statehood."
Critics of the initiative say it will have little impact on the ground and bring Palestinians no closer to an independent state by ending the Israeli occupation in the short term.
Arguing the case for the move, Ashrawi said it would allow the Palestinians to better hold Israel to account. Recognition as a state is expected to give the Palestinians access to dozens of U.N. agencies and the International Criminal Court.
"The value is we are taking the Palestinian question back to the international community and international law," she said. "We are also designating our land as occupied territories and therefore Israel is an illegal belligerent occupant and has to be held accountable."
The Palestinian leadership has called for protests to add popular weight to their diplomatic drive.
Though the Palestinians have said their protests will be peaceful and some Israeli officials believe events will unfold calmly, the Israeli military has been making preparations including training Jewish settlers.
There are around 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, some of who are armed. A U.N. agency which documents violence says settler-related incidents resulting in injuries to Palestinians and their property have increased this year.
Ashrawi said: "It is very clear that the Israelis are planning something that could blow up in all our faces."
"The most important thing is this escalation in terms of creating a vigilante group of all the illegal settlers in the West Bank, they already are creating a reign of terror," she said. "This is absolute irresponsibility."

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