UNITED NATIONS: Despite severe and fierce opposition from Israel and its ally the United States, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas made history in his people’s long quest for statehood as he formally asked the United Nations on Friday to admit Palestine as a full member state.
Palestinian President Mehmood Abbas handed the application letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon at 1535 GMT in a white folder adorned with a Palestinian eagle logo which was buoyed by more than 120 nations which have already recognized a Palestinian state.
“The American administration did everything in its power to disrupt our project, but we are going through with it despite the obstacles and the pressure because we are asking for our rights,” Abbas said late Thursday. “There are small countries in the world that have gained their freedom and independence, but we still haven’t got ours,” he told the Palestinian community in New York.
UN secretary general Ban ki Moon will now pass the landmark request to the UN Security Council, but a vote on admitting the Palestinians as a full member state could take weeks, leaving time for more diplomatic wrangling.
Palestinians were seized by the historic nature of the moment, which comes more than six decades after the creation of Israel in 1948. Across city centers in the West Bank giant television screens has been set up so residents could watch Abbas deliver his historic address to the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly. In Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank, many cars were flying the Palestinian flag, and posters of Abbas and his late predecessor Yasser Arafat festooned the streets.
Meanwhile Israeli Settlers attacked a Palestinian village near Nablus on West Bank killing a Palestinian man.
The UN recognition of a Palestinian state could allow increased international rights, which some fear the Palestinians may use to launch legal action against Israeli military action.
In reaction, Israeli officials have threatened of harsh retaliatory measures if the Palestinians succeed in their bid, including a halt to funding for the Palestinian Authority. Right-wing members of the government have gone so far as to call for annexation of the West Bank.
Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were due to make almost back-to-back addresses to the UN General Assembly around midday (1600 GMT) to set out their opposing visions of how to achieve peace in the Middle East.
Last-minute bargaining to divert the Palestinians from their course resumed Friday with a meeting of negotiators from the Middle East Quartet, the United States, Russia, the European Union and United Nations.
Middle East envoy Tony Blair said Thursday’s talks ended around 530 GMT, and a senior US official confirmed “quartet envoys are meeting this morning (Friday).”
The United States has vowed to veto the bid at the UN Security Council, with the Palestinians needing to win the backing of nine of the 15 council members. If that bid fails, they may well seek to be admitted as a non-member observer state by the General Assembly.
A French suggestion that Palestine be given an intermediate status as a United Nations observer nation remained on the table, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe’s spokesman said Friday despite what he said were “Israeli reservations”.
US President Barack Obama insisted to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that only new Israeli-Palestinian talks could bring lasting peace. His speech sparked angry demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza, with Palestinians accusing Obama of a double standard for praising the Arab Spring protests while seeking to block Palestinian dreams of statehood.