Mahmoud Abbas addresses Palestinians about UN bid, says he plans to ask UNSC for full UN membership

One week before he is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly in New York, Mahmoud Abbas — Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], who is also serving beyond his term as President of the Palestinian Authority — finally addressed the Palestinian people this evening to explain what he is about to do, via a televised speech delivered before an invited audience in the Ramallah Muqata’a.

We’re going to ask for full UN membership“, Abbas announced.

There was a standing ovation, that segued into rhythmic applause, after Abbas said: “We are going to the UN Security Council“.

He said the request would be handed to the UN Secretary-General, who would then turn it over to the UN Security Council — where the U.S. has said it would cast a veto, if necessary, to block the move.

Abbas spoke several times about the state being democratic, free, independent, within the 1967 borders, and having [East] Jerusalem as its capital.

But, he said, “Let’s be realistic; we won’t suddenly be independent” after going to the UN.

The other important pending issues, such as settlements, water, security, and the return of refugees, and more, would have to be negotiated with Israel after the move at the UN, he indicated. And, he stressed, the Palestinian strategy must remain “peaceful, everything must be entirely peaceful — Palestinians must not allow themselves to be provoked”.

The Palestinians are the people still under occupation, Abbas noted. What do the people want?, he said. Answering his own question, he said: “an end to the occupation”.

Israel and the U.S. have made their opposition to any Palestinian UN move clear, and there has been a flurry of last-minute efforts to avert such a Palestinian move at the UN.


Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu today reportedly said he could agree to a compromise that would upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN — but only as long as it would still be something less than a state. A report in Haaretz, published here said that Netanyahu discussed this idea this week with the EU’s High Representative, Catherine Ashton.

This diplomatically-sensational Haaretz article, written by Barak Ravid, reports that:

“Netanyahu told his interlocutors that granting the PA the status of a state would allow the Palestinians to go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over issues like settlement construction. ‘But as long as it is less than a state, I’m ready to talk about it’, a source familiar with the conversation quoted him as saying. One of Netanyahu’s advisers also said that Israel would not object to the PA’s status being upgraded as long as it is not recognized as a state. Both U.S. officials and Blair have been pressuring Ashton over the past few days to quash a French-Spanish initiative under which the EU’s 27 members would unanimously support a General Assembly resolution upgrading the PA’s status at the United Nations to that of a nonmember state. This initiative would give the PA the same status the Vatican now has. In exchange, the PA would not ask the Security Council to grant it full UN membership or file charges against Israelis in the ICC. Ashton, who had come to the region to gauge the parties’ response to the French-Spanish initiative, did not even discuss it due to this pressure. Instead, without consulting the EU member states, Ashton raised a proposal of her own that conformed to Netanyahu’s position. Under Ashton’s proposal, the PA would be upgraded to a new legal status less than that of a state. Such a status currently does not exist at the United Nations, but would be created especially for this purpose. This status would not give the PA the standing it would need to take Israelis to the ICC. Ashton, Blair and the Americans are also proposing that the Quartet – comprised of the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – draft a statement calling for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on Obama’s speeches in May. The Quartet’s foreign ministers are to meet Sunday in New York, but they are considered unlikely to reach a consensus on the wording of such a statement. European diplomats said that many EU countries oppose Ashton’s proposal and say she acted without authority. Under these circumstances, they added, EU members are bound to split their votes in the General Assembly. The Palestinians also oppose Ashton’s proposal, because they say it would not grant them the status of a state”…

The U.S. is, meanwhile, also working to convince fewer than nine members of the Security Council to support the Palestinian request, which would mean it would fail for lack of required support [without a veto being necessary].

Many Palestinians in the West Bank have been reluctant to invest much hope in the plan, at least until now, both because of the announced Israeli and American opposition — and also because they have expected there is a good chance the Palestinian leadership might back down at the last minute.

Abbas did address one issue that has been distracting a lot of attention, particularly among those opposed to the present leadership in Ramallah — he denied the claim that the pending move would mean the Palestinian Authority would replace the PLO at the UN. Abbas said that the PLO would remain the sole legitimate representative, and would retain its position of leadership of the Palestinian people throughout the process.

An article posted on the Al Jazeera website Friday night, however, noted that “Abbas’ speech seems certain to cement the PLO’s strategy, it would be politically disastrous to back down after publicly outlining his plans”. This article is posted here.

Indeed, informed Fatah officials in Ramallah have said in the past couple of weeks that the final decision on the exact course of action will be made at the last minute, in New York.

Abbas did not mention anything about an intermediary strategy, such as going first to the UN General Assembly to upgrade the status of Palestine from observer organization to observer [but still non-member] state.

Abbas’ last words in his speech tonight were: “All other options are still there”…

But, it is not clear if the Palestinian leadership and its senior strategists understand that once the UN Security Council is seized of the matter, then the same matter cannot also be brought before the UN General Assembly: both bodies cannot be “seized” of the same issue.

In any case, the mood after the speech was relaxed and upbeat.

Here are some reactions given in the Muqata’a, after Abbas’ 35-minute speech, by members of the audience:

* Independent politician and activist, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi called it “a good move – no retreat under pressure”. Barghouthi added that he was pleased had endorsed “popular non-violent resistance”, as well as “diplomatic resistance”, and said he hoped this would evolve gradually into a real statehood.

* Businessman Munib Masri said the speech had been “Great. Simple + straight to the point”.

* Jericho Governor Majd Fathiani said in the Muqata’a after Abbas speech: “Very difficult. It’s not easy, it’s not easy. But, we should try. Let’s hope”.

* Jerusalem Governor Adnan Husseini said in Muqata’a after Abbas speech that he thought it was: “Good, good, good”.

* The head of the Independent Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Mamdouh Aker, + Hebrew Palestinian Uri Davis, elected member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, both noted Abbas’ last words: “All other options are still there”.

* Mohammed Shtayyeh, elected member of Fatah Central Council and an adviser to Abbas, said in the Muqata’a after Abbas speech: “I call upon the American President to face the moment of truth”, and reconsider the threat to veto. “We are going to the UN Security Council. The train has left the station”, Shtayyeh added. “And the general mood of the people is that they want to get out of the crisis called ‘the peace process’ “…

Fox News noted in its report that “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, by essentially daring the United States to veto his people’s bid for statehood, has put the Obama administration and ally Israel in a corner … despite Arab League efforts to encourage the Palestinians to seek observer status in the General Assembly. The move will set up a potential showdown that has been brewing for months and could leave the U.S. with diminished credibility among the Arab world”. This is published here.

There was a curious elation in the air…

One member of Hamas spotted in Muqata’a audience: Mayor of El-Bireh, whose 18-year-old daughter has been in IDF detention since the end-of-secondary-schooling Tawjihi exam in June. Previously, the Mayor was detained, and subsequently the Mayor’s wife was also in detention for about one year.

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