Yes, after UNGA vote, Palestinians do now have rising expectations

Yes indeed, it’s clearer each day since Thursday’s vote in UNGA, Palestinians do now have rising expectations…

This is something that Israeli Ambassador Ron  Prosor had warned of, in his address at the UNGA  in New York, just before the vote last Thursday that he by then had no hope of averting.

Posters hung on lamp posts in the city center [in English + Arabic] which say: “Warning: this is Palestinian land.  Occupation forces must leave”.

Palestinian TV has gone all out to remind viewers, over and over, that Palestine is now a state.

PLO Chief Mahmoud Abbas returned to an organized hero’s welcome in the Ramallah Muqata’a today, after travelling to the UNHQ in New York for the General Assembly vote that gave Palestine state status  [albeit still non-member in the UN].

The photo below was taken inside the Muqata’a by French journalist Emilie Baujard, and Tweeted here.

Mahmoud Abbas given a hero's welcome at Ramallah Muqata'a after returning from UN vote
Photo of poster held by Palestinian waiting in Ramallah Muqata'a to welcome Mahmoud Abbas as a hero after UNGA vote in New York

Abbas’ first words were: “Yes, yes, we are now a state”…
He ended by citing these words: “hold your held up, you’re Palestinian!”

After the Israeli announcements last week of expediting procedures to begin building in the E-1 area, as well as another 3,000 settlement units in the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality”, and then today’s announcement that some 460 million NIS [new Israeli shekels = $121 million US dollars] in Palestinian VAT + Customs Tax fees collected at Israeli ports would  now be withheld and instead diverted to pay outstanding PA electricity bills of some $200 million dollars, there apparently is still more to come.

Barak Ravid tucked the following revelation down at the bottom of his Haaretz article, published here, on strong European protests being made about the settlement announcements: “a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Israel is planning to take more steps against the Palestinian Authority. ‘The Palestinians will soon come to understand that they made a mistake when they took unilateral action and breached their treaties with Israel’, the source at the PMO said”.

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The day after the UNGA voted to give Palestine status of state

The day after the vote in the UN’s General Assembly, the sky is blue + cloudless, sun is shining, everything glistens  It is Friday, so it is quiet.

On Palestine Television, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Awqaf  [Islamic Trusts, Mahmoud Habbash, gave the Friday prayer sermon in a mosque in Al-Bireh, next to Ramallah, that was shown on Palestine TV: he was happy about the UN vote.

The PA Minister of Awqaf [he is a former member of Hamas] said that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had followed pathway indicated by long line of martyrs [including Hamas co-founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin + Fatah co-founder Yasser Arafat].

He said:  West Bank, Gaza. Fateh, Hamas. Palestine is above all this, bigger, more important.

Now that the borders of Palestine are outlined and recognized by the UNGA, he said, the question is: why did the settlers decide to live here?  Why in this spot on earth?  Eventually, he asserted, the settlers will leave, they won’t stay here forever.  But, he said, the settler-terrorists — those who have attacked Palestinians and/or their property, must go.

Reaction seemed mixed in the all-male congregation at the Friday prayer sermon given by the PA’s Minister of Awqaf.  Some men looked at floor; some stared intently, unblinkingly, at the speaker. One old man wearing a kuffiyeh on his head, wiped away tears.

Judging from the Friday prayer sermon given by the PA Min of Awqaf, a more proprietary attitude may appear: “We will be masters on our land”…

Hanan Ashrawi, the public face of the push behind yesterday’s UNGA vote, said on Palestine TV [was it a re-play from last night?], explaining the effect of the UNGA vote: “We are now a state”.   She did not waiver in her optimism, despite the polite and well-mannered scepticism of the program host about the lack of prospects for any reach change.

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The UN votes on Palestine upgrade to state [even if only as non-member observer]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, undeterred, is about to ask the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution upgrading the status of Palestine to [non-member observer] state.

Mahmoud Abbas in the UN about to enter the General Assembly hall for the vote to upgrade status of Palestine to state - 29 November 2012
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas heading towards the UN General Assembly hall for the vote on status of Palestine

Photo Tweeted by Widad Franco — #AbuMazen entering #UN General Assembly Hall pic.twitter.com/vbv0BzIp
Mahmoud Abbas is in the center, head down, surrounded by UN + other bodyguards. His older surviving son, Yasser Abbas, is the first figure in the right of the photo, leading the way into the UN General Assembly hall.

It was a world-wide live news top story.  The UN General Assembly meeting was called to order at 3:40 pm in New York [10:40 in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Gaza].

At the request of the [60] co-sponsors of the draft resolution on the status of Palestine at the UN, the Assembly agreed to move directly to take action.  The representative of Sudan, chairman of the Arab group in the UNGA, called on member states “to join in making history”, and said the draft resolution, once adopted,  would be a historic decision: “We are asking the GA to accord to Palestine non-member observer state status”.

When Mahmoud Abbas was introduced, he received sustained supportive and sometimes standing applause — a recognition of his decision to forge ahead to achieve the self-determination of the Palestinian people, despite advice, opposition, and threats.

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Israel's strategy is collapsing, media say, as support grows for today's UNGA vote upgrading Palestine status to state

Israel’s score-keeping media is reporting that Israel’s strategy is collapsing, with announcements of growing international support, hours ahead of the expected vote later today in the UN General Assembly on a draft resolution that will upgrade the status of Palestine to [non-member observer] state.

Reuters’ Noah Browning Tweeted [@sheikhnb] today” “My take: world map of #Palestine #UNbid votes. Yes in green, No red, Abstain grey. Most undecided will likely abstain pic.twitter.com/va7UPqTO” … The graphic he prepared is posted here.

In Ramallah, a long-disappointed population is warily beginning to celebrate.

Child joins PLO celebrations organized in Ramallah ahead of UN vote on upgrading Palestine status to state - photo by Jihan Abdallah

One of the many thousands of children released early from school today to celebrate upcoming UNGA vote to upgrade Palestine status to State – photo taken in Ramallah’s Yasser Arafat square by Jihan Abdalla [Tweeted by @JihanAbdalla and posted here.

PLO Executive Member Hanan Ashrawi, who discussed the move with journalists in Ramallah yesterday, has written an op-ed entitled, “Supporting Palestine at the UN today is a vote for peace in the Middle East”, which is published today in The Guardian, here. In it, she said that this is, indeed, a unilateral story, but not one that resembles the unilateral scenario that Israel has been warning against, no.

Instead, Ashrawi wrote: “It is a story in which one side makes proposals for nothing in return; one side makes agreements that the other side breaks; and one side keeps commitments that the other side ignores…one side wants to negotiate a permanent solution and the other wants permanent negotiations”.

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Draft resolution on upgrade of PLO status in UN — rev.1

From Matthew Lee of Inner City Press, the first revision of the draft resolution that PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is still vowing to put to a vote in the UN General Assembly on Thursday, 29 November, posted here.

As Matthew noted in his blog post, here, “The changes in today’s “Rev 1″ are marked in bold. The new draft adds the term ‘non-member’ in the Operative Paragraphs, and moved the recognition of 132 states out of the Operative Paragraphs. It adds the issue of prisoners”.

Yes, Hamas leadership does support Mahmoud Abbas' UNGA move to upgrade Palestine status

In a report from Amman, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said today that “President Mahmoud Abbas Monday received a phone call from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in which he confirmed his support for the Palestinian bid to the United Nations General Assembly to gain a non-member state status”. This is posted here.

There has been confusion about this since last week, when WAFA published something similar, just after the cease-fire announced from Cairo. But some Hamas people denied the report.

This time, there is no denial.

Ma’an News Agency then wrote a corroborating report, posted here, saying: “Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal telephoned President Abbas on Monday to confirm the Islamist movements’ support for the upcoming UN bid, the official news agency Wafa reported”.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza that he supported the move in the UNGA:  “nobody is against statehood, and (my government) supports any political movement to establish a Palestinian state on the occupied Palestinian territory…Our vision is to have a state based on inalienable Palestinian principles, and a state on the pre-1967 borders does not mean ceding the rest of Palestinian land”. This is published here.

We reported this Hamas position last week — see our earlier report here.

Abbas: "We're going to the UN on 29 November"

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said at an Arab League meeting in Cairo tonight that he and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Araby had agreed that the Palestinian UN General Assembly move to upgrade the status of Palestine to [non-member] state would be on 29 November.

In Cairo, Abbas said that the Palestinians were going to the UN now — and could not wait for elections in Israel “and then elections in Mozambique and then elections in Congo…”.

November 29 will be the 65th anniversary of the UN General Assembly vote to partition Palestine, as a way of resolving, at British request, the troubled situation, and of dissolving the Mandate the British had been awarded by the League of Nations a quarter of a century earlier.

In recent decades, the UN has commemorated the day as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Abbas told journalists, according to AFP, that: “We don’t want any confrontations with the United States or Israel. If we could start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the vote, we will … We know we are a country under occupation, but we want our land which was occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem. Israel says Palestinian lands are disputed and open to negotiation, and is hurrying to build settlements, covering Jerusalem with settlements”. This is published here.

Earlier, in Ramallah, the PLO gave a briefing about the move. Muhammad Shtayyah explained that the text of the draft resolution that is now circulating, authorizing Palestine’s UN upgrade to [non-member] state, is already “outcome of negotiations” — in fact, he said, of months of negotiations.

Shtayyah said that the Palestinians were sure of having the necessary number of votes to pass the measure.

Shtayyah noted that the Palestinian delegation is, however, still working to accommodating certain countries’ requests for more clarity or amendments.

“Between today and the 29th [November] is consultations, so the resolution is not final + is now open for consultations”, Shtayyah told reporters.

The UN move is “to pressure for serious negotiations + an end to occupation — or there’s no point”. Shtayyah added, with some impatience. “Negotiations have to address the freeze of settlements, which should be frozen as we have always been saying”.

The upgrade in status would “change the terms of reference for the negotiations”, Shtayyah said.

“If not”, Shtayyah said, “Israel will hear through the organs of the UN, asking to put a timetable for their withdrawal”.

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Abbas: "We're going to the UN in November 2012, not 2013 or 2014"

Amidst threat of financial reprisals, pressure lobbying and media pressure, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said today: “We’re going to the United Nations in November 2012, not 2013, or 2014”. This was reported on Al-Akhbar, here.

Abbas is Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO]. which is supposed to function as Provisonal Government of the State of Palestine [declared by the PLO’s Palestine National Council in 1988]. Pn that basis, Abbas last year signed his name as President of the State of Palestine in the request he submitted for admission of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, As that was blocked by the U.S. [acting on behalf of Israel] Abbas is apparently now determined to pursue this half-way measure, and will soon request “non-member state” status in the UN.

UPDATE: Haaretz’s Barak Ravid Tweeted tonight that U.S. President Obama called Abbas and urged him not to proceed with his plans for this month’s UNGA move… Ravid has not yet Tweeted what Abbas replied…

But in his article, Ravid reports that Abbas said, in effect, no.

Ron Kampeas reported a little later for the Jewish Telgraphic Agency here that the White House had finally put out a statement about the call, saying that “Obama was returning Abbas’ congratulations for winning last week’s U.S. reelection. Obama returned a similar call to Netanyahu last Thursday”.

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Obama gets a second chance, in a second term of office

One of the best things about the results of this presidential election is that there will be no pause during a “lame duck” period.

Barack Obama will have to continue to work — with renewed determination and energy, as he said in his victory speech which we were able to see in the morning in Jerusalem + Ramallah.

His first international call, after being sworn into office in January 2009, was to Mahmoud Abbas. Any chance that Obama’s first international call today, after being assured of his reelection, will also be to Abbas? [UPDATE: There’s no word here about any Abbas contact Obama, but the Israeli Government Press Office, or GPO, has sent a notice that Netanyahu did speak with Abbas on Thursday. The Israeli announcement didn’t say who initiated the contact, but it seems to be Netanyahu.]

Abbas has already sent his congratulations to Obama. Sa’eb Erekat, the Chief Palestinian negotiator, said that Obama must now help try to stop settlements, and not block the apparently-imminent Palestinian move in the UNGA to upgrade from observer organization / “entity” to observer [but still non-member] state.

The U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro this morning said the Palestinian UNGA move would be “unhelpful”, but noted that the U.S. has an interest in maintaining the PA in the West Bank — despite Israeli plans to retaliate to the UNGA move.

The U.S. State Department has recently noted that Congressional legislation mandating a cut in funding to the PA if it made any “unilateral” move in the UN “outside the context of negotiations” does give the Secretary of State the option to waive financial sanctions in the interests of U.S.”national security”.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked the U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro to visit him today — and will reportedly try to put a call through to Obama during Amb. Shapiro’s visit…

Incomprehensible opposition to Palestinian move in UNGA to upgrade status to observer state [non-member]

Opposition by Israel [backed strongly by the US, at least until now, see below, and by some of its allies] to the current proposed Palestinian move to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade its states from observer “entity” or “organization” to observer [but still non-member] state [STATE] is, frankly, incomprehensible.

True, Palestinian President [PLO Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas was very strongly advised to do this [which we’ll refer to hereafter as the “UN move”] last year — before making the full “UN bid” to seek, through the UN Security Council, full membership for the State of Palestine in the international organization [the UN].

Israel bitterly opposed the “UN bid”, saying it was a “unilateral move” that should instead be resolved through “negotiations” [though Israel itself makes plenty of unilateral moves].

Mahmoud Abbas has argued that the “UN bid”, and now the “UN move”, are in fact a way to save negotiations that have stalled since the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead attack supposedly on Hamas in Gaza that started on 27 December 2008 and ended with two separate truce declarations just hours before the inauguration ceremony for U.S. President Barack Obama.

Two or three brief unsuccessful subsequent attempts at resumptions — first in March 2010, then again in September 2010, and then meetings held in Amman under Jordanian auspices in early 2012 — stalled over the issue of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. [There were often announcements of building tenders at about the time the talks were supposed to resume].

A formula advanced by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when the issue of settlements arose during the George W. Bush Administration’s Annapolis Process of negotiations, was that if the borders could be defined, it would then become clear where the settlements were… [The Annapolis process was supposed to begin in November 2007 and were supposed to end with the realization of a Palestinian state about a year later.]

This reasoning appears to be part of the argument behind Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to seek state status [even if non-member] through the UN General Assembly in the month of November. Once Palestine is given state status at the UN, the general outline of the borders will be set, and the status of territory in the West Bank [and the Gaza Strip] will become that of a state under occupation.

Hanan Ashrawi, now a member of the PLO Executive Committee has recently stated, several times, that it’s completely unacceptable that Palestinians should be forced to negotiate their way out of occupation. Ashrawi came to international attention when she emerged as the spokesperson for the Palestinian component of the Jordanian teama at the Madrid Peace Conference that began in October 1991 [the PLO was not allowed to participate alone], and who ran in 2006 Palestinian Authority [PA] elections on a small ticket that included current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad…

Ashrawi is standing on firm grounding in international law.

Israel is, and has been, doing what it can to prevent and to block Palestinian self-determination.

University of Geneva Professor of International Law, Marcelo G. Cohen, has argued that prevention of another people’s self determination has been regarded, in international law and at the UN itself, as a great violation of international law.

That principle of international law is now slipping, at best, with the intense pressure being brought by Israel and its greatest supporter, the United States, which has a veto power it said it would use in the UN Security Council to block the “UN bid”. It earlier threatened, and Congress continues to threaten, all kinds of sanctions if the Palestinian leadership continues — but the U.S. State Department recently pointed out that 2011 Congressional legislation providing. for punitive measures against the Palestinians, if they go forward in the UN, can in fact be waived by the U.S. Secretary of State, in the interest of U.S. “national security”.

Akiva Eldar reported yesterday in Haaretz that “the report of a UN Security Council subcommittee on the PA’s bid for recognition as a state. The report said the PA doesn’t fulfil the conditions for statehood because it doesn’t control the Gaza Strip”… Akiva Eldar’s report in Haaretz is posted here.

In fact, the report [UN Security Council Document S/2011/705, dated 11 November 2011] summarized the differing views of the Council members [all of whom were represented on the Membership Committee], and on this matter it said [in paragraphs 11 + 12] only that the following differing [unascribed] views were presented:
“Questions were raised, however, regarding Palestine’s control over its territory, in view of the fact that Hamas was the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip. It was affirmed that the Israeli occupation was a factor preventing the Palestinian government from exercising full control over its territory. However, the view was expressed that occupation by a foreign Power did not imply that the sovereignty of an occupied territory was to be transferred to the occupying Power. With regard to the requirement of a government, the view was expressed that Palestine fulfilled this criterion. However, it was stated that Hamas was in control of 40 per cent of the population of Palestine; therefore the Palestinian Authority could not be considered to have effective government control over the claimed territory. It was stressed that the Palestine Liberation Organization, and not Hamas, was the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

This confirms and supplements something I was told by an American former official last spring/summer in Jerusalem: that the “UN bid” failed, in an informal vote inside the UNSC’s membership committee [composed of representatives of all 15 members of the UN Security Council] to gather the 9-vote majority necessary to be recommended to the UNGA for a vote. This information has not been publicly reported before.

But, the report published officially by Security Council Committee on the Admission of New Members states only that “the Chair stated that the Committee was unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council”. There is no mention of any straw poll or informal voting, and no numbers are given.

The report does generally describe three different positions among the Committee members, as follows:
“The view was expressed that the Committee should recommend to the Council that Palestine be admitted to membership in the United Nations. A different view was expressed that the membership application could not be supported at this time and an abstention was envisaged in the event of a vote. Yet another view expressed was that there were serious questions about the application, that the applicant did not meet the requirements for membership and that a favourable recommendation to the General Assembly would not be supported”.

In any case, it could be argued that it is in Israel’s best interests to support the full Palestinian “UN bid” in the UNSC, even more than the current rear-guard “UN move” in the UNGA, where the Palestinians should be able to get a majority vote of support…barring surprises resulting from huge political [and economic] pressure.

Current indications are that the American intention will be to block the move politically, but not necessarily to punish the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority with economic sanctions.

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