The PLO Executive Committee’s Hanan Ashrawi told journalists in Ramallah today that “the last few days have been incredibly decisive for the Palestinian people”. She was speaking in a press conference called to discuss the Palestinian leadership’s 29 November move to go to the UN General Assembly to ask for a modest upgrade from observer “organization” to observer “state”.
Hanan Ashrawi speaking at a PLO press conference in Ramallah on 28 November 2012 – photo by AFP published here
UPDATE: Amira Hass, who was one of those attending Ashrawi’s press conference, later wrote in Haaretz here, that “as the day of the vote neared, it seemed that the excitement of those behind the move was finally beginning to percolate downward. For a moment, it seemed as if the PLO had stopped thinking like a ruling organization bent on preserving the status quo and was once again thinking like a national liberation organization capable of imagining change and effecting it through the balance of international forces”.
Ashrawi told journalists that “There will be a vote in the UN General Assembly at the end of the debate on Thursday on the upgrade in status of Palestine to [non-member observer] state, Ashrawi said. She added that the draft resolution for Palestine’s status upgrade to state has been tabled, it will not be amended any further, and it has some 60 co-sponsors — as well as enough support to pass in the UN GA vote tomorrow.
“It is time for the Palestinians to gain their right to self-determination and independence”, Ashrawi said. “It is time the occupation is removed”.
In the June 1967 war, Israeli military forces occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.
The UNGA vote is scheduled for 29 November — the date of the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption in 1947, following the Second World War, of Resolution 181, recommending a partition of Palestine, under British Mandate from the end of the First World War, into two states — on Jewish and one Arab. The State of Israel was proclaimed from Tel Aviv six months later. The Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine was adopted by the PLO’s Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers in November 1988.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry “now estimates that at least 150 UN member states will support the Palestinians” upgrade to observer state, according to a report in Haaretz, posted here. The same article reported that as the Israeli leadership realized over the last two days that its position was eroding, the decision was to “lower the profile” and make no more threats, at least for now. “Whatever we do will hurt Israel at least as much as it will hurt the Palestinians”, one Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying.
By the time the vote takes place on Thursday, it may be almost midnight in Ramallah and Jerusalem and Gaza, she noted.
Ashrawi told journalists: “This constitutes a historical turning point and opportunity for the world to rectify a grave historical injustice that the Palestinians have undergone since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, and their statements that it was a land without people…”
“The tragic attacks on Gaza emphasized the need for unity — the Palestinian people as a whole were targetted, and it’s very clear that we need to stand together to protect our national rights — first and foremost, self-determination”, Ashrawi said.
France said yesterday that it would vote in favor of the resolution upgrading Palestine’s status to state — as will Spain, Portugal, Denmark and others. The Jerusalem Post’s Tova Lazaroff sent out a Tweet citing Reuters saying @tovahlazaroff: “13 say yes to PA UN bid: Austria Denmark Norway Finland France Greece Iceland Ireland Luxembourg Malta Portugal Spain & Switzerland”.
Cyprus will be another yes vote, and also probably Sweden, and perhaps others. [Switzerland + Norway are not EU members]
UPDATE: U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said in the regular daily briefing for journalists on Wednesday that “Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and our Special Envoy for Middle East Peace David Hale did go up to New York and see President Abbas this morning. As you know, we meet with him frequently. The Secretary [Hillary Clinton] saw him just some 10 days ago when she was in Ramallah. They obviously had a discussion about the peace process, but they also reiterated the U.S. Government’s very real concern about the Palestinian initiative in the UN General Assembly. We’ve been clear, we’ve been consistent with the Palestinians that we oppose observer state status in the General Assembly and this resolution. We made those points again. And the Deputy Secretary also reiterated that no one should be under any illusion that this resolution is going to produce the results that the Palestinians claim to seek, namely to have their own state living in peace next to Israel. So obviously we went up to make one more try to make our views known to President Abbas and to urge him to reconsider. He’ll obviously make his own decisions, and he will do that in New York tomorrow. But we thought it was important to make our case one more time…[T]his resolution is not going to take them closer to statehood. It does nothing to get them closer to statehood, and it may actually make the environment more difficult”. The full briefing is posted here.
But, Ashrawi said earlier, in her press conference in Ramallah on Wednesday, that Israel and the United States [and any other countries who will probably not support this resolution], “will find themselves on the wrong side of morality, of justice, and of law”.
Ashrawi said she wished that even if the U.S. could not support the draft resolution in the UN General Assembly vote, at least the U.S. should simply abstain…
Israel has denounced the move as a ‘unilateral” step which runs counter to the Oslo Accord between Israel and the PLO. But, Ashrawi said, this cannot be misconstrued as a unilateral step, when it is not. “If there are to be negotiations, this would form the basis of negotiations — without pretending that our territory is under dispute or up for grabs”, she told journalists.
Israel’s chief concern, it has emerged through media statements and through the efforts to negotiate the Palestinian request to the UN, has been that once classified in the UN as a state, Palestine could then lodge complaintes against Israel at to the International Criminal Court or other fora, including the International Court of Justice. Ashrawi previously seemed to suggest, several months ago, that if Israel committed no war crimes after the date of Palestine’s accession, the matter would be moot.
But today, she said that “If Israel refrains from settlement activities … there is no immediate pressing need to go … [though that could change if]”Israel persists in its violations.”. She also said: “if Israel is not guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity, then it has nothing to worry about”.
Ashrawi added “it is our right to join all international organizations and agencies”, and pointedly stressed that “it will be a Palestinian [only] decision”.
“We have not succumbed to pressure”, Ashrawi stated.
UPDATE: Bernard Avishai, American-Israeli academic + blogger/writer, posted a piece, here, on The Open Zion section of The Daily Beast a piece about the UNGA move: “We hear much about the danger of Palestinian diplomats, newly elevated to representatives of an observer-state, bringing action in the International Criminal Court against Israeli officials and officers linked to settlements—a back-handed acknowledgement, curiously, that settlements are seen as a contravention of the Geneva Conventions everywhere but in Israel”.
In this post, Avishai also reported some exclusive news: “I believe,” Olmert wrote me, intending his statement to be made public, “that the Palestinian request from the United Nations is congruent with the basic concept of the two-state solution. Therefore, I see no reason to oppose it. Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues. It is time to give a hand to, and encourage, the moderate forces amongst the Palestinians. Abu-Mazen”—an alias for Abbas—”and Salam Fayyad need our help. It’s time to give it.” … What makes Abbas irrelevant is not Hamas “steadfastness,” but his failure to garner sufficient American backing for the principles he and Olmert worked through over 36 meetings in 2008 [n.b. — in the U.S-sponsored Annapolis process of direct negotiations]: principles for resolving Jerusalem, borders, security and refugees consistent with the positions taken by previous American administrations, but which Netanyahu refuses to accept as a basis for new negotiations”. Abbas, as a matter of fact, is going to the U.N. with Hamas’s blessing, as the Palestinian president, and head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization…[So] The administration, in other words, could start with, say, an abstention on Abbas’s resolution in the U.N., or if not that, then an invitation to the White House, and move quickly to a “disengagement of forces” agreement on the Gaza front, and a call for new negotiations over borders based on, as Obama already declared, “the 1967 lines with land swaps.” That’s exactly, Olmert knows, what could yet transform Israeli politics.”
Ashrawi said to journalists in Ramallah on Wednesday: “Why are we going to the UN?”, she said. “First, to ensure the Palestinian right to self-determination, and to define Palestinian land as it is — under belligerent Israeli occupation”. And, she added, “it also says that Palestinians have rights”.
Ashrawi also said: “We hope the international community will stand with us. This is non-violent commitment to a just resolution…And in Gaza, we need a real solution, not just a cease-fire.”
“It will also be empowerment for the Palestinian people”, Ashrawi added. “We are not a non-people…It is a moral and legal move to send a message of hope to our people”.