MJ Lee
Politico (Analysis)
September 19, 2011 - 12:00am

The United States is working on a last-ditch plan to head off a vote on Palestinian statehood this week by having Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submit a letter for recognition to the United Nations Security Council without actually holding a vote, CNN reports.

Abbas’ letter - which would spare the U.S. a veto of statehood that would likely be condemned around the world - would be accompanied by a statement from the Mideast Quartet, consisting of the U.N., the European Union, the United States and Russia – that outlines the terms under which Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would resume.

According to a Palestinian official, the proposal is allegedly being considered a serious option. “We don’t need a vote right away,” they said. “We see this as the beginning of a process.”

Quartet representatives are set to work on the text of the statement Tuesday afternoon, CNN says, and a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, the recognition of two states for two peoples, and a time frame for a peace deal are at the core of the plan.

“Just because he sends a letter to the Council doesn’t mean there has to be a vote,” one E.U. official told CNN. “The message we get from the Palestinians is that they definitely want to find a diplomatic solution.”

“It actually is a good idea because it is like a Damocles [sword] hanging over our heads,” an American official said. “It creates an urgency to start negotiations.”

The Obama administration has consistently maintained that “direct negotiations” are the only way to reach a two-state solution, and that the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. is “counterproductive.”

President Barack Obama is set to sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday afternoon, but has no plans yet to meet separately with Abbas.

An Israeli official also indicated openness to this plan, with one official telling CNN, “From our side, I think we could accept it.”

Another Israeli official said this would be a “good move” for Abbas.

“He could walk away with the pride of having gone to the Security Council, having an improved terms of reference in a Quartet statement and maybe saving his relationship with the Obama administration. But I don’t know if he will do it,” the official said.

On Monday, Abbas said that he will press on with his statehood bid on Friday, even while noting that “all hell has broken out against us” because of his plan.

“We will go to the U.N. because there is no contradiction between negotiations and going to the U.N.,” Abbas told reporters while en route to New York City.


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