Barak Ravid
July 17, 2011 - 12:00am

Wishing to avoid an American veto at the Security Council, the Palestinian Authority is considering turning directly to the United Nations General Assembly in September in order to gain international recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Palestinian sources and European diplomats say that the Palestinians will give up their effort to be accepted as a full member of the UN - a move that would require approval by the Security Council - and will seek instead recognition by the General Assembly of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, which will not be a full member of the organization.

Following the failed meeting of the Quartet foreign ministers in Washington last week, the Palestinians recognized that the United States will veto any resolution that will be brought before the UN Security Council for unilateral Palestinian statehood. Moreover, the Palestinians have also concluded that turning to the Security Council with a request for full membership in the UN is a more complicated proposition, largely because of time constraints.

Palestinian sources and European diplomats said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his aides are increasingly leaning toward a direct appeal to the General Assembly of the international organization. Even though the assembly lacks the authority to offer the Palestinians full UN membership, at the General Assembly the United States is unable to use its veto power against resolutions brought before the plenum for a vote.

Also, the Palestinians would like the vote to take place during the General Assembly in the last week of September, and for this there is no need for a great deal of preparation. The vote at the General Assembly could be called with as little as 24 hours notice.

A vote at the General Assembly is expected to end with a Palestinian victory and a large majority, as some 140 member states are expected to support recognition of a Palestinian state. Even though a General Assembly resolution is "weaker" than one by the Security Council, the Palestinians are comparing such a decision to Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, in which the General Assembly approved the plan to partition Palestine.

Senior Palestinian officials say that without the decision on dividing Palestine in 1947, Israel would not have had the international legitimacy to declare independence in May 1948.

"The decision of the General Assembly was a very important step on the way to independence," senior Palestinian officials noted. "Even though the situation on the ground will not change the day after, it will bring us significantly closer to the establishment of a Palestinian state," they add.

Senior European diplomats said that the failure of the Quartet meeting pushed the Palestinians even more toward turning to the UN. They say that responsibility for the failure of the meeting lies with the United States, which proposed to the other Quartet members - the EU, the UN and Russia - a one-sided wording for an announcement that favored Israel and which had no chance of being accepted by the Palestinians.

The U.S. version did include mention of negotiations being based on the 1967 borders with an exchange of territory, however, it also included portions of the letter of President George Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which noted that the border changes would reflect the demographic changes on the ground since 1967. This implies the annexation of the settlement blocs to Israel.

"The Israelis pressured the U.S. very heavily and the American wording was too blatant and unbalanced," senior European sources said. "In the way things had been written there was no chance that the Palestinians would accept this."

European Union Foreign Policy head Catherine Ashton refused to accept the U.S. version and was joined by the Russians. She put forth a more moderate version, calling for negotiations on the principle of "two states for two peoples," with mention to Resolution 181 on the division of Palestine in 1947. "Unfortunately the Americans failed to convince the Israelis to accept this version," senior European diplomats said.


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