Was the UNSG taking a diplomatic half-step back from his earlier support for a long-overdue Palestinian State?
What he said, at a hastily-summoned press conference at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, was exactly this: “I am profoundly troubled by the lack of progress in the peace negotiations. It is vital that they resume. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a two-state solution is long overdue. Time is not our friend”.
[As we reported in our last post, on 10 September, here, what the UNSG BAN said in Australia that day was somewhat different. According to AFP, he said this: “The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live… side by side in peace and security — that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it… And I support also the statehood of Palestinians; an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue“.]
The U.S. State Department spokesperson said last Thursday that the Obama Administration would use the American veto in the UN Security Council if the Palestinians pursued their announced intentention to seek full UN membership.
Though U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale are on their second trip to the region in as many weeks to try to avert the Palestinian move, Palestinian officials say they are going to pursue it — unless, of course, an excellent offer is made up until the last minute.
Even if a Palestinian State is somehow admitted as a full member of the UN Organization, Palestinian officials say, they intended to pursue negotiations with Israel on the next day…
Palestinian Authority [PA] Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told members of the Foreign Press Association [FPA – in Israel] at a briefing convened at FPA request on Thursday that at end of Mahmoud Abbas speech around midday on 23 September from the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York, after the very last sentence, Abbas – who is Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, in addition to acting President of the PA — will present the official request for the state of Palestine to be granted full membership to the UNSG”.
UNSG BAN Ki-Moon will be seated on an elevated table behind the podium. All Mahmoud Abbas will need to do is turn around and hand up the official Palestinian letter of request — and this will be in public, in full view of the whole world.
Malki’s briefing to the FPA was originally scheduled to be held at the King David Hotel in [West] Jerusalem. But. it was moved to the PA Foreign Ministry in Ramallah at Malki’s request.
Malki also told FPA members that “We are taking our file to the UN … We are ready for such a step…to protect the rights of Palestinians to self-determination and to independence…
129 states recognize Palestinian state, including some who have not yet declared this openly: they may do so during UN debate. “According to our information, in the UNGA we will get 170 votes, if not more…We are trying to add one new state, Palestine-194″ .
As we have reported earlier, if Palestine is admitted as the next new member of the UN, it will be the 194th. This is an iconic number for Palestinians — it coincides with the number of the UNGA Resolution 194, adopted in 194x which says that those Palestinian refugees willing to live in peace with their neighbors should be allowed to return at the earliest possible moment, and also should receive compensation for their losses”.
Asked by journalists what will happen afterwards, Malki said: “The day after, we wld like to see negotiations, yes, that is why we are going” to the UN…Instead of opposing the move, Malki said, “Israel today should recognize Palestine on 1967 borders with agreed swaps, and negotiate on the pending issues … Since the beginning of negot. we were talking about the 1967 borders, + even before. The PLO’s Palestinian National Council [PNC] 1988 Declaration [of a Palestinian State in a meeting in Algiers] recognized that”.
Asked to respond to criticism from some Palestinians that the move would deny their Right of Return”, Malki responded that the “Right of Return is something to be discussed afterwards. Go revisit tbe Arab Peace Initiative agreed at the Arab Summit in Beirut, which was then approved by the Islamic Conference Organization [OIC]”.
Malki,who himself asked ICC early 2009 to open inquiry after the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, said “We’ve already been in contact with Ocampo [the head of the ICC for last 2 years” about this, but Malki indicated the Palestinians wanted [or needed] to go to the ICC as a State. He added that “If I interpret Israel’s opposition to our becoming state [member of UN], yes, it’s that it would allow us to go to the ICC”.
This would be true whether the State of Palestine is admitted as a full member of the UN, or as an observer non-member state.
A moment earlier, when asked, Malki had said more cagily that “There will be no reason for us to go to the ICC if Israel does not take any action that’s considered to be illegal, or a crime against humanity … If Israel takes such an action, we might find ourselves compelled” — suggesting that there might be some kind of date or time limit before which a new state could not ask for prosecution of war crimes, but this was not clear.
The Israeli government announced on Thursday, after Malki’s remarks were reported, that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has changed his mind and will now go to the UN to try to counter the Palestinian bid. Despite the late time, Netanyahu has apparently already been added to the speakers list a week from Friday — the same day Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to speak.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may apparently miss one or both of these speeches. U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Esther Brimmer told journalists in Washington today that next Friday, Clinton “will have two special meetings, one on Somalia and also looking at nuclear safety issues that week”.
In his briefing in Ramallah, Malki did not mention option of upgrading status to observer non-member state via UNGA, which could be done even today. Though the U.S. has apparently also frowned at this suggestion, there appears to be intensive bargaining about this possibility now, at the moment, particularly by the EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton.
If Palestinians are going to the UNGA, it should really be done first. Once their request is submitted for UN Security Council consideration of full membership, they will not be able to go to the UNGA until the UNSC disposes of the item, because the two bodies cannot be “seized” of the same matter simultaneously. And, the UNSC could sit on the matter for a good long time — even for years.
If, and when, the Palestinian bid is shot down in the UNSC either by a failure to win 9 positive votes, or by an American veto, they have suggested they will move to the UNGA thorough a “uniting for peace” maneuver. But, they cannot get full membership from the UNGA. From the UNGA, they can only get non-member observer state status.
And, having this in hand first, which could be done immediately [even tomorrow] would increase the points in their favor in the UNSC, because they would be requesting full membership as a state according to a UNGA decision.
However, the Jerusalem Post reported later Thursday that “Malki was contradicted later on Thursday by PA envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, who told reporters the Palestinians were still ‘fine-tuning our options’ on what to do next week in regards to the PA’s bid for UN recognition. ‘The final decision will be taken in the next few days as to which path we would follow, whether it is through the Security Council for full membership or whether through the General Assembly’ for a lesser upgrade of status, he said”. This is posted here.
Palestinian sources in Ramallah have said for weeks that the final decision would be made at the last minute, in New York.
Mahmoud Abbas is due to address the Palestinian people about the anticipated UN bid via a speech to be broadcast on Palestinian television on Friday evening at 6 pm Jerusalem/Ramallah time. There has been criticism of the negative consequences, and there has also been a weary distancing from Palestinians who say they do not want to get too invested in the idea because they fear that the Palestinian leadership may back down at the last moment.
However, a number of cars were seen driving around Ramallah today with two flags posted on either side of their roof – one a Palestinian flag, and one white flag with the logo of the “national campaign” for Palestine-194.