Palestinian leadership preparing to make move in UN General Assembly

Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of the Palestinian Negotiations team, said in an encounter with journalists in the West Bank village of Dura al-Qarya’ on Monday that the Palestinian leadership is preparing to make a much-discussed move in the UN General Assembly — “soon”.

The move, as Shtayyeh described it, will be to seek recognition of the State of Palestine within the boundaries that existed on 4 June 1967, just before the outbreak of the Six-Day war some 45 years ago.

This is different from the “UN bid” of last September, when Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] leader Mahmoud Abbas formally requested full UN membership for the State of Palestine.

Because the planned move is different, Shtayyah told this journalist, it will not require either withdrawing the “UN bid” handed to the UN Secretary-General in New York last 23 September, or insisting on a show-down that would end with public Palestinian defeat after the Obama administration made sure it would veto any such step.

On the same day he received it from Abbas, UNSG BAN Ki-Moon sent the Palestinian request to the UN Security Council which has the responsibility of deciding which states can be recommended for full membership in the International Organization.

Once a UN Security Council recommendation is achieved, a request for UN membership is sent to the UN General Assembly for approval and adoption.

But, Israel strongly objected to this Palestinian move, saying it was a “unilateral act” that violated the series of agreements known as the Oslo Accords that were negotiated between Israeli and Palestinian officials in the mid-1990s. The U.S. then made it clear that it would use its veto in the UN Security Council to block the Palestinian “UN bid”.

An independent Palestinian State was proclaimed by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at a meeting of the PLO’s National Council in Algiers in November 1988. A separate resolution in that same PNC session declared that the Palestinian State would be created in the territory occupied by Israel in the June 1967 war.

Shtayyah told journalists today that ever since the Madrid Peace Conference of October 1991, which preceeded the Oslo Accords, “the whole idea of the peace process was to achieve a two-state solution in the 1967 borders”. But, he noted, “since Madrid, there has been no Israeli recognition of the borders”.

That way, he said, it will be clear that this Palestinian territory is not “disputed”, as he said Israelis say, but “occupied”.

Shtayyah also noted that the Palestinians negotiated the Oslo Accords with the understanding that the interim Palestinian Authority would last for a 5-year period, and that a Palestinian State would be in place by around May 1999.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague has already clarified, in its Advisory Opinion of July 2004, that the West Bank [including East Jerusalem] and Gaza is occupied territory, under a belligerant military occupation by Israel.

The Oslo Accords stated prominently at the top of every agreement that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were one political unit.

In a speech before the UN General Assembly on the same day that Mahmoud Abbas presented the formal Palestinian request for full membership in the United Nations, France’s President at the time, Nicholas Sarkozy, offered support for an alternative Palestinian move in the UN General Assembly.

Shtayyah suggested, in an interview with CNN Producer Kareem Khadder today, that the decision to go to the UNGA with this new strategy to seek recognition of the 1967 borders [rather than UN membership] would be announced in a forthcoming visit of President Abbas to France.

Had the Palestinian leadership — as many advised — gone first to the UNGA, seeking to upgrade the status of the Palestine mission at the UN from that of an observer organization [or “entity”] to the status of an observer [but non-member] state, that move would also have been opposed by Israel and the U.S., but would likely have succeeded in getting the needed number of votes.

But, the intense pressure applied on Mahmoud Abbas to avoid the “UN bid” firmed up his intention to go ahead, and his speech in the UNGA announcing the application received a standing ovation in the Assembly Hall, and was watched with tears and an outpouring of emotion in the Palestinian West Bank. Abbas was received with a hero’s welcome upon his return to Ramallah.

At the time, the Palestinian leadership said it was determined to have a decision on its “UN bid” within weeks — but that move has stalled.

Though the Palestinian leadership believed it could insist on a UNSC vote, if it wanted, some diplomats report that the U.S. made sure, through powerful international lobbying efforts, that “UN bid” would be stalled if not blocked in the UNSC’s membership committee.

Palestinian officials have acknowledged that, despite their earlier calculations, they would not have had the 9 votes needed for adoption of a resolution in the UNSC. Somewhat surprisingly, it was reportedly Bosnia-Herzegovina which refused to support the “UN bid”, due to what were described as objections from Bosnia’s Serbian politicians.

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