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Palestinians prepare push for UN resolution on statehood

The Arab League has agreed to submit a draft resolution calling for recognition of the state of Palestine as Palestinians gear up for a diplomatic showdown at the UN Security Council.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York September 26, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Segar   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR47UHT

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' own people often have some unflattering words for him. He has been called a "traitor" and a “quisling,” accused of selling out Palestine in peace negotiations. While Israelis also attack him as a “diplomatic terrorist” and “Arafat in a suit,” one important Israeli sector has been praising him. The Israeli security establishment has nothing but positive words for the embattled Palestinian leader for his consistent support of security cooperation with Israel.

The public support from Israel’s security chief Yoram Cohen directly contradicts the statements of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and provides Abbas with a strong new political weapon. Speaking in Cairo at the Arab League foreign ministers meeting Nov. 29, Abbas threatened to end security cooperation if plans for a timetable to end the occupation fail at the UN. The Palestinian leader has secured support from the Arab League for a resolution to be submitted to the UN Security Council demanding a short time frame for the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands occupied after 1967. Palestinian and Arab sources have been quiet about the exact details of the resolution. Previous public statements by Palestinian officials talked about a “firm timetable” of two or three years.

Having secured the support of the Arab League, the fight to end Israel’s occupation now moves to the UN Security Council. Jordan, the only Arab member of the council, has been asked by the Arab League to carry the Palestinian position. Dina Kawar, Jordan’s UN representative, told Al-Monitor that once the resolution is officially submitted, “There are bound to be negotiations as to which text will be agreed to.” Kawar said, “Once we decide with the Palestinians to put the draft in blue, it means it has to be voted on.” But Kawar expects that the negotiations will take some time.

Jordan’s King Abdullah is due to meet with US President Barack Obama on Dec. 5 and is expected to speak on behalf of the Palestinian cause as the linchpin to regional security. Abdullah said Nov. 29, “The Palestinian issue is the core and essence of the conflict in the Middle East.” He said the region “will continue to suffer insecurity, instability, despair and an increasing fear of the future unless just, comprehensive and viable peace is achieved between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Palestinian and Arab efforts to secure a UN resolution face two major hurdles: obtaining nine positive votes out of 15 and ensuring that the United States doesn’t veto. At present, Palestinian officials concede that the Americans are pressing member states not to support the resolution so as not to embarrass the United States when it likely vetoes it. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told the Wafa news agency that these nine votes are not assured and voiced worry that France might scuttle the effort by suggesting an alternative initiative.

The delay until December for the start of discussions over the resolution might be connected to the change in the UN Security Council's makeup due on Jan. 1. If the nine votes are not clearly secure in December, Jordan might be asked to delay sending the blue version for a vote until January 2015, when the Palestinians are sure to win nine positive votes. It is hoped that once the votes are secured, the United States might not use its veto. Israeli officials have publicly stated that they are worried that the current US-Israeli public feud might result in the United States abstaining at the UN.

As the struggle for votes intensifies, the Palestinian leadership has not been shy about what would happen if the Palestinian quest for a firm timetable to end the occupation fails. Palestinians have warned that they will appeal to all relevant UN resources, including citing the Rome Statute. But this week, Abbas has introduced a new, more lethal political weapon: security cooperation. Abbas has publicly threatened as recently as Nov. 29 to leverage this proven asset in his arsenal with the Israelis if the Security Council effort is blocked.

This is not the first time that the Palestinian leader has threatened to turn the tables on the Israeli occupiers. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh calculated via Twitter that Abbas has threatened to throw in the keys of the occupation 58 times, while others, like Ali Abunimah, tweeted that the suspension of security coordination is nothing but an “empty threat.”

It is true that in previous circumstances, the Palestinian leader has done little to carry out these threats. The difference now, however, is the timing. The UN move comes as Israel's international isolation deepens and support grows for Palestinian statehood as the means rather than end of the peace talks. Sweden’s recognition of Palestine followed by the support of the British and Spanish parliaments and the upcoming votes in Denmark and the EU are increasing pressure on the world community to act. The effort in the Security Council also comes at a time when the United States is trying to strengthen its anti-Islamic State coalition in the Arab and Muslim world. It would be a great gift to Islamic radicals should the United States veto an internationally accepted resolution on Palestine.

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