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.

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

IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot

The IAEA has passed what appears to be a mild resolution in response to its toughest report yet about Iran’s nuclear program.

The IAEA report suggested that there was no way to understand parts of Iran’s nuclear research other than to believe there was an aim to study how a nuclear weapon might be developed.

The IAEA 35-member Board of Governors adopted the resolution — which expressed “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues regarding the Iranian nuclear program, including those which need to be clarified to exclude the existence of possible military dimensions” — on Friday 18 November.

The resolution also expressed the Board’s “continuing support for a diplomatic solution”. It called on Iran to implement an additional IAEA inspection protocol which is purely voluntary for other countries — Iran has been ordered to do so by a series of resolutions in the UN Security Council.

And the IAEA Board resolution also called on Iran “to engage seriously and without preconditions in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting the legitimate right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with the NPT”.

According to a report in the New York Times, “the global powers meeting in Vienna criticized Tehran on Friday over suspicions that it is building a nuclear weapon. The rebuke, however, fell far short of threatening further pressure or actions to curb Iran’s contentious uranium enrichment program”. This was attributed in part to objections from Russia and China. The NYTimes article can be read in full here.

The NYTimes report added that the Iranian representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, “accused the nuclear agency of endangering the lives of Iranian scientists by releasing their names in an annex to last week’s report about the suspicions of nuclear weapons work. ‘The release of the names of the Iranian nuclear scientists by the agency has made them targets for assassination by terrorist groups as well as the Israeli regime and the U.S. intelligence services’, he said in a letter to the body’s director general, Yukiya Amano. Parts of the letter were published by Iran’s state-financed Press TV satellite broadcaster, which noted that several Iranian nuclear scientists had been killed in episodes attributed by Iran to Israeli, British and American intelligence services. Mr. Soltanieh contended that disclosing the names of Iranian experts represented a violation of the agency’s rules and said Tehran reserved the right to seek damages from the agency for any harm to its personnel or property as a result of the report — a possible reference to Tehran’s frequently voiced fears of an Israeli military strike on its nuclear facilities”….

In a separate, but possibly related, matter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is due to meet Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Canada on the sidelines of a larger meeting.

Apparently, Ambassador Soltanieh said that as a result of today’s vote, Iran had decided not to attend an upcoming IAEA meeting on establishing a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Middle East.

The publication of the IAEA report [which was leaked to the press within minutes of its distribution to the Board of Governors] has also been criticized by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, whose remarks are reported in an interview published by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, here. The Bulletin describes Mousavian as “a lecturer and research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, is the highest-ranking member of Iran’s political elite living in the United States”. Here is an excerpt of the Q+A:

    Q [Ali Vaez]:…Back in 2008, Iran addressed most of these allegations in a 117-page response to the IAEA. Wouldn’t publication of this response be a more constructive move than taking umbrage at the IAEA?

    Mousavian: The IAEA has, unfortunately, broken the rules of the game. Iran does not want to commit the same mistake. The issues between the agency and member states should remain confidential. Iran respects the rules and does not disclose its communications with the agency. Yet, the content of the IAEA reports on Iran are leaked to the media ahead of their distribution among the agency’s member states. This is highly unprofessional and against the statute of the agency. Such behavior is highly damaging to the credibility of the IAEA, as an impartial international body. It also clearly demonstrates that the information is dictated to the agency from somewhere else in order to make the case for ratcheting up pressure on Iran. The publication of these allegations was a significant step backward.

    Continue reading “IAEA passes "mild" resolution after its toughest report yet on Iran, UNGA denounces assassination plot”

Jose Ramos Horta, E. Timor President, endorses full UN membership for Palestine

Writing for the Huffington Post, East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta endorsed [in September, just days before PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas actually deposited the request] Palestine’s “UN bid” for full membership in the international organization.

Ramos Horta, who was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, alongside East Timor’s Archbiship Belo, for their efforts for self-determination and peace in East Timor, wrote in his article, published on 19 September, that “Arguments against full Palestinian UN membership are not persuasive“.

    “The Palestinians, having waited for 20 years since the Oslo Accords, that promised them a full sovereign Palestinian State living along side with the state of Israel, have decided to seek full UN membership status now. They have every right to do so and I do not see how a Palestinian State that is a full member of the UN would be detrimental to Israel and US interests. Full UN membership carries with it not only rights but in equal manner duties and responsibilities, among them, the obligation to not allow its territory to be used to launch attacks on other countries…
    “The dilemma and challenge for Israel is to vacate most of West Bank. But Israeli leaders and settlers are the ones who created this problem for themselves and must now have the courage and wisdom to leave West Bank and hand over the settlements to the Palestinian authorities. A special fund could be set up, led by the US and Europe, to buy back from Israel the thousands of housing units, schools, health clinics, etc scattered in the West Bank. While no amount of money would ever suffice to buy back the lives lost, Palestinians would receive high quality infrastructures that in some way would constitute a small form of compensation for decades of humiliation and dispossession…
    “To my friends in Israel and the US, I will say, do not oppose Palestinian UN membership; support it instead. Provide the financial means the Palestinian leaders need to turn their economy around. Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu told me in his office in Jerusalem earlier this year that he wanted to see an economically prosperous Palestinian state. I believe he meant it. Now is his chance to show vision and bold leadership by endorsing Palestinian UN membership, lift the Gaza blockade, and facilitate trade…
    “I have heard arguments from all sides. Arguments against full Palestinian UN membership are not persuasive. After more than 60 years of absence, to a great extent due to past Palestinian and Arab leaderships miscalculations, it is time that the five million Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza, and the many others scattered in the region and elsewhere, see their national flag hoisted along aside that of other powers of the world, great and small, rich and poor”.

    [Jose Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and President of Timor-Leste, made State Visits to Israel and Palestine earlier this year.]

This article by East Timor’s President Jose Ramos Horta, recommending full UN membership for the State of Palestine, is posted here.

Netanyahu's "strategy" vs. Ehud Olmert's "2008 parameters"

It took the American administration several years to denounce the obvious stalling tactics of Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir after the launch of the Madrid Peace Conference in October 1991.

By then, back-stage talks between Israeli and Palestinian “academics” and “individuals” over dinners in idyllic settings in northern Europe had reached the stage that the Oslo process was ready to go public, and the Declaration of Principles was signed on the White House lawn in a live event in September 1993.

Now, almost four years after the direct American supervision over direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was launched at the Annapolis Conference, Palestinian negotiators have brought the file back to the UN, saying they want the international community to take a stand, and they want to exercise their right to ask for full UN membership.

As Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said to reporters on the flight to New York, “all hell has broken loose”.

A day before his big speech — which will be broadcast live on screens in centers of major West Bank cities, particularly Ramallah and Nablus — Abbas is reported in the New York Times [see our earlier post] to have said that he is not happy with either the Americans or the Arabs: “I am fed up with all these people + I don’t know what to do when I return back”.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu — who is on tape**,here, during a visit in 2001 to the large West Bank settlement of Ofra, between Ramallah and Nablus, as saying he deceived the U.S. and will destroy the Oslo Accords and prevent a solution — was for a while not even going to go to the UN, in order to deny credibility to the Palestinian “UN bid”. But, it assumed such proportions that he had to go.

Despite an offer, Netanyahu + Abbas have not met in New York. But, that is not a big deal.

For, Netanyahu has a strategy. He and his staff briefed Israeli journalists on it earlier this week. The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon reported it in the Jerusalem Post: “Netanyahu’s strategy is to explain. Explain, explain, explain. He is a man of words. He loves to read, and to speak – some less charitable would say he loves to lecture. And he believes in the power of words, of oratory, of rhetoric … [H]e is carrying a speech to explain to the world what he feels much of it fails to see: that the Middle East has changed; changed radically, and changed fundamentally. At Sunday’s cabinet meeting Netanyahu explained why he decided, after weeks of deliberation, to go to the UN himself and combat the Palestinian Authority’s statehood recognition move. ‘My UN trip will have a double goal’, he said. ‘The first goal is to ensure that this move to bypass negotiations does not succeed and is stopped in the Security Council’. The second goal, he said, is to present the truth about ‘our desire for peace’ and Israel’s historic rights to the country that go back ‘only 4,000 years’. And then he cut to the chase: ‘I will also speak about our intention to achieve peace with our neighbors while ensuring our security. If this was clear and necessary in the past, then today it is even more important. Especially now, when the Middle East is undergoing a great upheaval, from Tunisia to Yemen, from Libya to Egypt, Syria and throughout the region; when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or how things will turn out’.” These remarks, which echo remarks made in recent months by a number of other Israeli military and security officials, are published in the JPost here.

Netanyahu said he was going to the UN in NY to speak the truth. Apparently, most of it has to deal with Israel’s security, and the requirement to maintain superiority and control to maintain Israel’s security.

Indications are, he will speak about the Jordan Valley.

When Israel began to build its Wall, almost a decade ago, it wanted to build it straight down the Jordan Valley. The U.S. Administration at that time [George W. Bush] quietly ruled that out.

Netanyahu wants to revisit the matter.

Toward the end of his article, the JPost’s Keinon wrote that “Last September, during those few days when Netanyahu and Abbas did speak for a few hours, the Prime Minister told Abbas that Israel would need a military presence along the Jordan River for a long period of time. When Abbas asked Netanyahu why, the prime minister replied that one never knows what could happen, and that a presence on the Jordan River – to protect against any untoward developments from the east – was a necessity. And that was before the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the chaos in Syria, the uncertainty in Jordan, and the rift with Turkey. How much truer is it now, he will argue, how much more caution is needed now, than in the past, because who really knows what will develop. If Fatah can lose control of Gaza to Hamas in a matter of weeks, if the Egyptians leadership can now talk about re-visiting and perhaps trashing a 30-year peace treaty, then previous assumptions and strategies and ways of doing business need to be re-thought”.

We posted earlier, on 11 August, on our sister blog www.palestine-mandate.com here about Mahmoud Abbas telling visiting American Congressmen that negotiations had been blocked by Netanyahu’s demand to keep IDF troops in the Jordan Valley: “Abbas told a group of visiting American Congressmen, including Steny Hoyer of Maryland [Democratic Party whip in the House of Representatives], that ‘there are no negotiations now because Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has placed pre-conditions’, specifically a demand that there be an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley. Abbas told the delegation that the discussions he has had with Netanyahu in the past ‘have led nowhere, because unless we agree to be occupied by IDF troops, he doesn’t want to talk about anything in the next step’. Abbas, according to Hoyer, said he met with Netanyahu last year, but that those talks ‘went nowhere because Netanyahu only wanted to talk about security, and that the implementing of that security was deployment of IDF troops in the Jordan Valley’.”

Netanyahu is due to speak about an hour after Abbas makes his address in the UNGA on Friday, around the middle of the day in New York, and evening here in Jerusalem.

**On the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu said in the 2001 home video, linked to above, that “His approach to White House demands to withdraw from Palestinian territory under the Oslo accords, he says, drew on his grandfather’s philosophy: ‘It would be better to give two per cent than to give 100 per cent’. He therefore signed the 1997 agreement to pull the Israeli army back from much of Hebron, the last Palestinian city under direct occupation, as a way to avoid conceding more territory.
‘The trick’, he says, ‘is not to be there [in the occupied territories] and be broken; the trick is to be there and pay a minimal price’. The ‘trick’ that stopped further withdrawals, Mr Netanyahu adds, was to redefine what parts of the occupied territories counted as a ‘specified military site’ under the Oslo accords. He wanted the White House to approve in writing the classification of the Jordan Valley, a large area of the West Bank, as such a military site. ‘Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give [them] the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came, did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo accord’.” This is recounted by Jonathan Cook in a 2010 article published in The National, here.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert — forced to resign to defend himself against charges of corruption — wrote an Op-Ed published today in the New York Times saying that he feels uneasy at the current turn of events: “As tensions grow, I cannot but feel that we in the region are on the verge of missing an opportunity — one that we cannot afford to miss”.

Continue reading “Netanyahu's "strategy" vs. Ehud Olmert's "2008 parameters"”

Reports of a Palestinian compromise at the UN may, or may not, be premature

The news this morning from CNN was that “international” diplomats — mostly European — were working to arrange some kind of face-saving deal whereby Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would present an official request for full UN membership to the UN Security Council, but not ask for a vote. This story is reported here. It is full of optimistic and cheerful comments.

Even the Israelis are said to be on board: “Even senior Israeli officials were warm to the idea, saying that while they were not thrilled with Abbas going to the Security Council at all, avoiding a vote and preventing the Palestinians from unilaterally gaining statehood through the U.N. system was the main priority. ‘From our side, I think we could accept it’, one senior official said.

The CNN story reports that “The Security Council letter would be paired with a statement by the Mideast Quartet laying out the terms of reference to re-launch peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the officials said. The quartet is made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Monday night in an effort to get Russian to buy into the plan. Quartet envoys will meet for a third day Tuesday afternoon to work on the text. The core elements include a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with agreed upon swaps, recognition of two states for two peoples — the Palestinians and the Jewish people — and a time line for a peace deal, diplomats said”.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the U.S. is not involved in negotiating any wording. She said that the Europeans were talking to the Palestinians, but noted: “There is no Palestinian text yet … Nobody in New York has seen one.” This is reported here. Israeli Defense Minister Barak as well as State President Shimon Peres are reportedly lobbying hard to get support against the Palestinian UN bid. [Barak reportedly claimed to have convinced Nigeria to vote against a Palestinian “UN bid”.]

Palestinian officials, meanwhile, are still saying they intend to stay the course, but also that they are open to compromise…

UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, Jerusalem time, it was reported that Barack Obama will meet Mahmoud Abbas in New York, apparently at U.S. request, after Obama meets Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu…

In the West Bank, meanwhile, preparations intensified for demonstrations called by the “National Campaign”, with the clear support of the leadership, to back the leadership, and the UN move. Students and government employees are being given time off to attend the rallies. Israeli settlers in the West Bank are reportedly planning to counter-demonstrate. It could be a mess, but mainly on the roads outside the main Palestinian cities.

Mahmoud Abbas was interviewed on Fox News, and reminded the viewers that U.S. President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly last year that he hoped to see a Palestinian state this year. What Obama actually said last year, however, was more like he hoped to see the arrangements in place for a Palestinian state…

Tony Karon has just written in The National here that “there’s something dangerously deluded in the US demand for an immediate resumption of direct talks”. And, Karon added, “It’s nothing short of astounding to see the US ditch any pretence of being an honest broker, and instead mount a frenzied campaign to block the Palestinian effort without a single new concession from Israel”.

Though much less attention is now being paid to him, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has also been in New York, attending a regular meeting of major donors to the PA held every six months. In an interview with Der Spiegel, he indicated he would prefer a strategy of going to the UN General Assembly.

[Fayyad also muddied the situation by referring to the PA being treated almost as a state — but, Fayyad is only a official in the PA and has no role in the PLO, which alone has the standing to make the move at the UN. Because he limited himself to speak for the body for which he works does not mean, and is no kind of proof, that the PA will replace the PLO, as some have vehemently argued. This interview merely illustrates what should be an evident fact that if a journalist asks a PA official for an interview, he will speak as a PA official…]

Here is an excerpt of some of what Fayyad said, in this largely uninformative, simply space-filling, and somewhat misleading interview:

Q [SPIEGEL]: Are you in favor of going to the Security Council even if that means a confrontation with the United States, which has announced it would veto the application?

Fayyad: “If I thought for a moment that it would be possible to become a full-fledged member of the UN that way, I would definitely go for it. But there is a gap between what I’d like to have, and what I can have. If it is as certain that it will be a failed motion at the Security Council, as it is generally believed to be, then I would say: Let us pursue a path that is more inclusive, that ensures that we act hand in hand with our friends in the international community. We should have the largest possible alliance behind us so that the European Union will not be divided by this vote”.

SPIEGEL: Europe is already divided. Germany spoke out earlier this year against the UN initiative, but France and Spain tend to support it.

Fayyad: “I can’t call that divided. What we are doing is consistent with the European Union’s consensus position of 2009, which was affirmed last year. What if, just as an illustration, we go to the UN General Assembly and present a draft resolution where the preamble is taken verbatim from the European Council’s 2009 position? No one could then tell me why the European Union should oppose it”.

SPIEGEL: At most, the UN would be able to bestow Palestine with the rank of a non-member observer state — similar to the Vatican.

Fayyad: “If the UN states that Palestine is state ready, then that validation alone would be a major accomplishment for us Palestinians.”

Continue reading “Reports of a Palestinian compromise at the UN may, or may not, be premature”

Mahmoud Abbas in New York – meets UNSG, but does not [yet] submit letter asking for UN membership

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in New York for what has looked like an eventful week that would culminate in a Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations.

Abbas met the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon today — but did not submit the letter that has to be given to the UN Secretary-General to start the process.

Why?

About a week ago, Abbas told journalists including correspondents from The New York Times that he would submit the letter to the UNSG as soon as possible after he arrived in New York.

The answer can only be — Abbas is allowing maximum time for diplomatic contacts and negotiations to play out.

On Friday, in the Muqata’a Presidential Headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas gave a televised speech in which he said he would hand the letter to the UNSG on Friday, at the end of Abbas’ scheduled address to the UN General Assembly. He is 14th on the speakers’ list on Friday, listed between Tajikistan and Japan.

Palestinian officials say they expect this means Abbas will be one of the last speakers on Friday morning — about 12:30, they predicted [but it could well be later].

It would be a dramatic visual if Abbas, speaking at the podium of the General Assembly on Friday, simply turned around and handed the Palestinian letter up to the UN SG, who will be seated behind a marble table on an elevated platform directly behind Abbas.

After Palestinian officials made clear that they intended to go through with their UN bid, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was inscribed two or three speakers later, after Abbas speaks on Friday.

The Obama administration has said it will use its veto power, as one of the 5 Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, to stop the Palestinian bid, if necessary.

However, it became clear over the weekend that the U.S. would prefer to defeat the move in another way — by persuading enough members of the Security Council to not support the Palestinian bid, so that it will fail to win the 9 votes needed to pass, and be adopted.

This is trickier — and would require the U.S. to abstain [for its no vote would automatically become a veto].

It would also mean persuading the EU to adopt a common position, and also abstain. There are 4 EU members on the UN SC:
Britain + France, who are also permanent members with the veto power; and Germany + Portugal, non-permanent members who could either abstain [if there is a common EU position], or vote no.

A defeat by abstention, rather than by veto, would be a much softer blow to the Palestinian plan — a kinder, more gentle dissuasion –and easier to explain on the international level, and in the Middle East. It would be a nicer way to leave the door open for a second Palestinian try, without causing the same bitterness here on the ground that a U.S. veto would do [even if joined by Britain + France].

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in New York today that “We along with all the other twenty six countries of the European Union have withheld our position on how we would vote on any resolution that may come forward in the General Assembly in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations. That is the only real way forward.”

TODAY’s RECOMMENDED READING:
(1) PALESTINIANS TURN TO UN, WHERE PARTITION BEGAN, by Neil MacFarquhar, published 18 September 2011 here.
(2) REJECTION OF PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD DENIES FREEDOM, by Ahmad Tibi, published today here
(3) ABBAS DEFIANT AS ‘ALL HELL’ BREAKS OUT OVER UN PLAN, by Maan News Agency using material from a Reuters report, published today here.

Continue reading “Mahmoud Abbas in New York – meets UNSG, but does not [yet] submit letter asking for UN membership”

UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"

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.

Continue reading “UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"”

SG BAN Ki-Moon says Palestinian state is "long overdue"

During a visit to Canberra, Australia, the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon made headlines here, and probably around the world, by saying that a Palestinian state is “long overdue”.

AFP reported that the UNSG said: “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 …But… the recognition of a state is something to be determined by the member states …It is not by the Secretary General so I leave it to the member states to decide to recognise or not to recognise”. This report is published here.

It was, actually, an uncharacteristically bold and brave thing for him to say, coming just hours after the U.S. confirmed clearly that it held the opposite view — and would use its veto power in the UN Security Council to stop a Palestinian request for full membership in the organization.

A Palestinian State has already been declared, in November 1988. But, though a few legal scholars disagree on the basis of theory, it clearly doesn’t exist yet, “on the ground”.

Within hours of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence at a meeting of the PLO’s Palestine National Council in Algiers on 15 November 1988, the UN’s then-Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, issued this statement through his spokesman in New York saying:

“The Secretary-General has not seen the full text of the statements issued by the Palestine National Council in Algiers. However, on the basis of the press reports that have emerged thus far, he believes that fresh opportunities now exist for progress towards peace. The Secretary-General has consistently maintained that a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and take fully into account the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination. The Secretary-General believes that this session of the Palestine National Council has been of the greatest significance. He feels that all concerned should now seize the opportunity to make a determined new effort to achieve a just and lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East”.

This statement is archived on the UN website here.

That was in November 1988.

Continue reading “SG BAN Ki-Moon says Palestinian state is "long overdue"”

Palestinians make chair for UN seat for Palestine

As Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu works to follow-up on his faxes sent a week ago to leaders around the world urging them to oppose any Palestinian change of status at the United Nations, and as the U.S. sent a message from Washington [hand-delivered to Jericho by the U.S. Consul-General in Jerusalem last Friday] threatening a cut-off of some half-billion dollars in aid per year if any Palestinian move is made, Ma’an News Agency has just reported that a group of men in the West Bank have forged ahead, and built a special chair intended to seat the State of Palestine in the United Nations.

[With regard to the reported U.S. threat to cut off aid to the Palestinians, it should also be noted that the Israeli Hebrew-language newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Prime Minister Netanyahu in a recent phone call that the Obama Administration “would find it difficult” to support Israel’s position at the UN unless an apology is offered to Turkey for the deaths of 9 men killed during the Israeli naval interception of the Mavi Marmara on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean on 31 May  2010…UPDATE: and it was just reported by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, here, that Netanyahu is asking for a six-month delay in the publication of the UN report which is being held up, pending a possible Israeli apology, a move that the paper says was not warmly welcomed in Ankara. According to Hurriyet, the report’s publication date is still set for Friday 2 September…]

According to the report, published here, engineer Sufian Al-Qawasmi told Ma’an that “the idea for the small blue chair came from Ramallah”:

Seat for Palestine in the UN - chair made in Jenin - photo by Ma'an

The story says that the chair is made of “cloth from Nablus weaved [sic] in Hebron”, and put together in Jenin, “and two keys symbolizing refugees’ right to return were sent from Jerusalem, said Al-Qawasmi, who supervised the design of the chair. He said the olive-wood chair was made in 48 hours to represent 1948, the year of the Nakba when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee their homes as the state of Israel was established. ‘As the UN seat was a demand to represent Palestine as a state, we ourselves decided to send the seat of Palestine to the UN’, Al-Qawasmi said”.

Meanwhile, a debate has flared between some opposed to the Palestinian leadership’s possible/planned move at the UN, which somehow is popularly supposed to materialize on the 20th of September [though sometime in October, or in November. is also a possibility.]

The debate went ballistic with a “legal opinion” written by Guy Goodwin-Gil and posted in full here.

In this “legal opinion”, Goodwin-Gill wrote, in para (3), without further explanation: “I am advised that one possibility being debated involves the replacement of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its ‘substitution’, within the United Nations, by the State of Palestine as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

But, he did not say who, exactly, advised him of this… or what, exactly, is the factual basis for saying this.

We only learn,  later [see below], who advised him.   But, we are never given any factual basis…

Continue reading “Palestinians make chair for UN seat for Palestine”

Heightened drama at monthly UNSC debate on Middle East, ahead of possible Palestinian bid at UN

The tone in Robert Serry’s voice conveyed an urgency greater than the mere words on paper.

On Tuesday [26 July], during the now-regular monthly meeting of the UN Security Council on the Middle East, Serry — who is the new UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and also Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General — Serry told the UN Security Council that “the political process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in profound and persistent deadlock“.

He spoke of the evident “differences and lack of trust between the parties”.

According to the logic of Serry’s statement, Israel maintains its military occupation that began with its conquests in the June 1967 war, some 43 years ago, because of Israeli leadership’s gnawing concerns for “lasting security”.

In the absence of a credible political horizon for ending the occupation that began in 1967, and of any framework for meaningful talks, and with Israeli settlement activity continuing, the Palestinian leadership is now actively exploring approaching the UN, Serry said — as a way to help preserve the two-state solution.

Israel has objected to any such move, calling it a “unilateral” action which violates — and might invalidate — the Oslo Accords negotiated with the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] in the early and mid-1990s. Various Israeli officials have threatened a number of possible difficult reactions, including an intensification of the difficulties [for Palestinians] of the Israeli occupation. Some Israelis have even threatened possible partial annexation of areas in the West Bank [parts of the West Bank in and around the Old City of Jerusalem have already been effectively annexed in the weeks following the June 1967 war, although UN member states have voted, in the UNSC and in the UN General Assembly and in other bodies and organs, to consider this unilateral Israeli act “null and void”].

This monthly UNSC debate, which has become rather routine, was described this time in Israeli media reports as a kind of a dress rehearsal for what might happen at the UN in September, when the Palestinian leadership has decided to make some kind of as-yet-undefined move towards functional statehood [unless, of course, they change their minds at the last minute, as they have with so many other things, including local and national elections…]

Serry told the Council that “the PA has in key areas reached a level of institutional performance sufficient for a functioning state … and is ready to assume the responsibilities of statehood at any point in the near future”.

Twenty years after the start of the inconclusive peace talks, starting with the multilateral Madrid Peace Conference in October 1991 [whose very slow progress lead to secret side talks, sponsored by Norway, between Israel and Palestinian figures, that resulted in the Oslo process that in 1994 instituted a transitional five-year arrangement including the establishment of a local Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza], “yet, again, we are reaching a point where the parties have failed to meet an agreed timeline for a permanent status agreement … [and] I cannot but describe the situation where Palestinian state-building has matured in the West Bank, but the political track has failed to converge, as dramatic”, Serry said.

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