Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
November 10, 2011 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority failed in its bid for full UN membership, its officials admitted on Wednesday. They said they were now unlikely to call for a vote on the matter in the Security Council.

The PA is expected instead to turn to the General Assembly, where it has an automatic majority, and ask that its status be upgraded to that of an observer nation.

This would give the Palestinians de facto international recognition as a state, even if it does not bestow upon them full-state rights in the international arena.

“Our plan now is to take the battle to the UN General Assembly, where we are certain to score victory. This will allow us access to many important UN agencies and organizations, including the International Criminal Court,” a PA official told The Jerusalem Post.

He spoke a day after a Security Council subcommittee draft report was leaked to Reuters. It showed the PA had only eight of the nine votes it needed for its UN membership bid to pass the Security Council, on which 15 nations sit.

The subcommittee is expected to submit its report to the Security Council on Friday.

Council diplomats have said Russia, China, Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria support the Palestinian bid. The US opposes it.

It is expected that Britain, France, Colombia, Germany, Portugal and Bosnia would abstain.

The US, one of five council members with veto power, has promised to veto the measure should it pass the council. But initially Palestinians pushed forward anyway. They had hoped to show that the US was isolated among the Western powers in support of Israel and to prove they had international support by gaining the nine votes to approve the bid.

Some PA officials in Ramallah said they were “not surprised” by the failure of the Security Council members to reach agreement on the Palestinian statehood bid, while others expressed anger with the US administration for scuttling the application.

President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hold consultations with his top aides in the coming days to the discuss the Palestinian response to the failure of the statehood bid, a PA official in Ramallah told the Post.

The official said US officials have been talking to top representatives of the PA in the past few days about the need to resume peace talks with Israel.

According to the official, the Americans are trying to avoid a scenario where Abbas would resign or dissolve the PA in protest against the failure of the statehood bid.

Another official said the PA leadership was not surprised by the apparent failure.

“The Americans have been threatening from day one to foil the application for membership of a Palestinian state in the UN,” the official said.

PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo said the Palestinians had hoped for the support of nine Council members, and that eight of them had promised to vote in favor of the measure.

An Israeli official said the international community had sent a clear message to the Palestinians that the only path to statehood was through negotiations.

The Prime Minister’s Office called on the PA to resume talks and to abort its UN initiatives.

Earlier in the day, Britain became the third Western country to announce it would not support the Palestinian’s UN-membership bid.

“The United Kingdom will abstain on any vote on full Palestinian membership of the UN,” Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament.

He called for the immediate resumption of negotiations – without preconditions – as laid out in the Quartet’s September 23 statement.

“Our primary objective remains a return to negotiations through the Quartet process and the success of those negotiations,” Hague said. “We reserve the right to recognize a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace. The United Kingdom will continue to be one of the principal supporters of Palestinian statebuilding efforts.”

France made a similar announcement over the weekend.

What now remains unclear is the EU position with regard to a PA request for a status upgrade.

“We and the other countries of the EU will continue to emphasize that any proposition put to the General Assembly must make a return to negotiations more likely,” said Hague.

For renewed talks to take place, he said, both sides must show “political will and leadership” to break the impasse.

Negotiations between Israel and the PA broke down in December 2008 when Israel launched a military strike against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

After Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office in March 2009, the PA said it would only resume talks if Israel halted settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Israel imposed a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction at the end of November 2009. The Palestinians resumed talks with Israel only in the last month of the moratorium, in September 2010. When Israel refused their request to extend the moratorium, they left the talks.

Hague called on Israel in his Parliament speech to make “a more decisive offer” to the PA “than any they have been willing to make in the past.”

He acknowledged that the resolution of the conflict was not, as the Palestinians requested, a strict return to the pre- 1967 lines.

“The parameters for a Palestinian state are those affirmed by the European Union as a whole: borders based on 1967- lines with equivalent land swaps; a just, fair and realistic solution for refugees; and agreement on Jerusalem as the future capital of both states,” Hague said.


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