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”.
Amidst a flare-up in violent attacks and counter-attacks between Israel and Gaza — that started after an IDF jeep was struck by what the miltiary said was an anti-tank missile — Israeli air attack reprisals on Gaza were answered by dozens of rockets fired from Gaza, and 7 people were reported dead in Gaza, including children, and scores were wounded. Schools on both sides of the Gaza perimeter were closed Sunday.
Israel’s Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter told Israel Army Radio that “In seeking to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status to nonmember state…Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was showing the world a ‘pseudo reality’ — claiming he was in control of his situation enough to warrant asking for a UN status upgrade, but at the same time refusing to take responsibility regarding rocket fire from Gaza”. This was reported by the Times of Israel, here.
This dig against Abbas was echoed by Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in Vienna, Austria, where he had gone to meet Israel’s Ambassadors to European countries to discuss the upcoming Palestinian UNGA move. YNet reported here that Lieberman “spoke of the escalation in the south, saying that since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas failed to address it or denounce it, ‘it begs the question – who does Abbas represent and how much control does he have’.”
There are Palestinians who have said the same thing…
These remarks also echoed comments made by some members of the UN Security Council in discussions within a series of meetings of a special membership committee set up to evaluate and consider the “UN Bid” for full membership in the international organization that Abbas made a year ago, on 23 September 2011. The report of the Membership Committee, prepared on 11 November 2011, summarized the views this way [each “view” seems to be from a different country’s representative]:
“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 [that there be] 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. [But] It was stressed that the Palestine Liberation Organization, and not Hamas, was the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.
The Times of Israel story report added that Dichter complained “The Palestinian move at the UN is a mistake, and it is being done while entirely ignoring the situation in Gaza … [Abbas hadn’t said] a single word about terror from Gaza” Dichter said. In the same report, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon is quoted as the announced UNGA move was “a flagrant violation of the Oslo agreement…geared toward avoiding entering talks”.
And, Al-Akhbar added that Israel’s finance minister Yuval Steinitz said last night that Israel “will stop collecting tax revenues for the Palestinian Authority [PA] and not hand over any money unless Abbas drops the UN membership bid”.
And what if Israel actually stops COLLECTING taxes [Customs. VAT etc] for PA? Israel recently transferred to PA an advance on monthly monies due. The PA in Ramallah has previously complained that it has little or no idea how accurate are the amounts it gets from Israel for Gaza imports [due to the PA, which in turn says it spends about half of its budget paying for things in Gaza…]
Both PA + Israeli officials have threatened to toss away the Oslo Accords [including the Paris Protocol on economic relations] as UNGA upgrade move seems imminent.
There are Palestinians who have urged the same thing [even the draft resolution to be submitted to the UNGA doesn’t mention Oslo, but it does cite the Road Map…].
According to a Reuters report published in Haaretz, here, Steinitz told a town meeting in Beersheva that “It cannot be that they hit us unilaterally and then expect bilateral cooperation with us on economic matters”. The report added that “Israel has previously frozen payments to the Palestinian government during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions, provoking strong international criticism”. And, indeed, Israel froze tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority a couple of times in 2011 ahead of the “UN bid” for full UN membership.
But the U.S. urged that no penalties be imposed on the Palestinians until they actually do join the UN…and so Israel restored the money [with certain deductions for bills that were said to be outstanding]. In recent months, however, Israel has twice provided advance payment of PA tax revenues, in an effort to shore up the faltering Palestinian administration in the West Bank.
Israeli officials at first said that Abbas should wait until after the Israeli general elections scheduled for 22 January.
Now this position is being reframed, and Israeli media are reporting that there is a feeling that it would be better if Abbas waited until after Obama is inaugurated for his second term, at about the same time in January…
But, Abbas is [still] holding firm, and says it will be done this month, November 2012.