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FACTDROP: Palestinians Request U.N. Status; Powers Press for Talks
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9/23/2011

Palestinians Request U.N. Status; Powers Press for Talks



Πηγή: New York Times
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR and STEVEN LEE MYERS
Sep. 23 2011


UNITED NATIONS — Shortly after President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority formally requested the Security Council to grant full United Nations membership on Friday, international powers reached an agreement on terms to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Obama administration officials said.

Details of the understanding between the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, known as the Quartet, were due to be announced later on Friday. But officials said they hoped the statement would lead to a new round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership after many months of stalemate.

The real prospect of menaingful negotiations remained doubtful on a day when Mr. Abbas and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, delivered strongly worded addresses to the General Assembly defending their respective positions.

Mr. Abbas was greeted by numerous standing ovations from the moment he approached the lectern to deliver his speech to the General Assembly. “I do not believe anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for full admission in the United Nations,” Mr. Abbas said, calling statehood “the realization of the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people.”

The largest and most sustained applause, along with cheers and whistles of approval, came as Mr. Abbas held up a copy of the letter requesting membership that he said he had handed to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon shortly before. “The time has come,” he said.

Less than an hour later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel took to the same lectern in “a hall that for too long has been place of darkness for my country” and said that he would not be seeking applause but rather speaking hard truths. “The truth is the Palestinians want a state without peace and you should not let that happen,” he said.

Mr. Netanyahu lashed out at the United Nations, whose prior actions against Israeli he described as “a theater of the absurd,” and challenged a comment by Mr. Abbas that the Palestinians were armed “only with their hopes and dreams.”

“Hopes, dreams — and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran," Mr. Netanyahu said. He repeatedly stressed Israel’s small size, saying it needed strategic depth to defend itself, particularly from the growing threat of militant Islam in the region.

Both men spoke for about 40-minutes, often in almost professorial tones, with Mr. Netanyahu sounding like a geography professor as he laid out the threat Israel faced from so close at hand.

The request for Palestinian statehood on land occupied by Israel has become the dominant issue at this year’s General Assembly, refocusing global attention on one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

Both men used the occasion to summarize the history of the conflict from their own perspectives. Mr. Netanyahu, in his early remarks, reviewed the many occasions when the United Nations had issued resolutions against Israel, saying the country had been unjustly singled out for condemnation “more often than all the other nations combined.”

Mr. Abbas said every previous peace effort had been “shattered on the rock” of Israeli settlements and cited what he said was the historical responsibility of the United Nations to solve the problem.

He described the West Bank as “the last occupation” in the world, one that showed no sign of ending. “It is neither possible nor practical nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual,” he said.

Drawing a line between his statehood request and the revolutions that swept through the Arab world this spring, he said, “The time has come also for the Palestinian spring, the time for independence.”

The Security Council is likely to take up the issue in earnest next week, diplomats said, when the question becomes whether the United States and its allies can stall it.

Washington is also working to prevent the Palestinians from gathering the nine votes needed for it to pass in the full council and thus avoid further wrecking the image of the United States in the Middle East by casting yet another veto against something Arabs dearly want.


Washington is also working to prevent the Palestinians from gathering the nine votes needed for it to pass in the full council and thus avoid further wrecking the image of the United States in the Middle East by casting yet another veto against something Arabs dearly want.

The United States and the other members of the quartet that guides the negotiations — the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia — are all trying to restart direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians before any vote becomes necessary. The hope is that if negotiations begin in earnest, that the membership request can be postponed until the negotiations are over.

The diplomatic wrangling at the United Nations is expected to take several weeks before the question of a vote arises.

Among the 15 members, some are expected to stay solidly in the Palestinian camp, including Brazil, China, India, Lebanon, South Africa and Russia. The United States is a solid vote against, and the five European members — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Britain, France, Germany, and Portugal — are all question marks. The positions of Colombia, Gabon and Nigeria are also murky.

The African Union supports membership, but it is not entirely clear if Gabon and Nigeria will go along. President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria did not mention the issue in his speech to the General Assembly, unlike many leaders from the developing world who support Palestine, and the statement by President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, was somewhat enigmatic. He said he hoped to soon see a Palestinian state, but noted that both the Palestinians and the people of Israel are friends of Gabon.

In Europe, Germany tends to lean against, its relations with Israel always overshadowed by the legacy of World War II. France leans the other way, while Britain sits on the fence. Portugal and Bosnia have been close to the Palestinians and the Arab world in the past, but their support is not assured this time around.

In theory, United Nations procedures demand that the special 15-member committee — one from each state — that studies the membership issue report back in 35 days, but nothing is more flexible than a deadline at the United Nations. Security Council members can stall things for weeks and weeks by requesting more information or by saying they are waiting for instructions from their capitals.

Behind them, though, looms the policy enunciated by President Nicholas Sarkozy of France, who said that the Palestinians should get enhanced status in the General Assembly, moving from an observer entity to a non-member observer state.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said it would wait to see what happens in the Security Council before moving forward. By tradition, the General Assembly does not take up an issue when the Security Council is studying it and vice versa, but it is not impossible.

The historic day of speeches engendered a sense that the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had come full circle. The Palestinians call their membership application a desperate attempt to preserve the two-state solution despite encroaching Israeli settlements, as well as an attempt to shake up the negotiations that they feel have achieved little after 20 years of American oversight.

The question is whether trying to bring the intractable problem back to its international roots will somehow provide the needed jolt to get negotiations moving again.

The general point of view of the Israeli government and its supporters is that the Palestinians and their Arab allies gave up the right to the United Nations resolutions detailing a two state solution by rejecting that original plan and waging war against Israel for six decades.

But after every war, the United Nations resolutions and indeed the peace treaties with other Arab states have all reaffirmed the resolutions that outline the two-state compromise, starting with General Assembly resolution 181 in 1947. In the annex of their membership application submitted to Mr. Ban today, the Palestinians listed every United Nations resolution that envisioned a two-state solution that has not been implemented, they said.

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