Palestinians Undecided on Timing Of UN Observer Status Bid

Article Summary
The Palestinian Authority's leaders seem hesitant to submit its long-promised bid for UN statehood, writes Hani Habib, noting that timing is everything, given the uncertain political landscape and the US presidential campaign.

Despite the clamor caused by the Palestinian premier when he requested that Palestine be given the status of “observer state” at the United Nations General Assembly, the Palestinian Authority has decided to go forward with this request at the UN. However, the PA is still uncertain of the best way to present this demand, and is hesitant regarding the vote it will undergo.

Previously, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki had said that the PA would not apply for full membership in the General Assembly this month. He said that they would submit this request some time between September 2012 and September 2013. However, according to Maliki, President Mahmoud Abbas will instead ask the head of Palestine’s mission to the UN to resume contact with UN regional groups and the secretary-general in order to find the best method and time to submit the bid to ensure that it achieves majority support.

These statements have reflected Palestine’s tendency to react to international pressure, particularly that of the US, and have shown the reluctance of some Arab countries to persuade their allies to support the Palestinian request. A wave of public criticism concerning the PA’s position pushed the authority to submit its request at the General Assembly. However, the PA seems uncertain of their position, since they noted that putting in a request does not mean that they are demanding an immediate vote on the bid. This has created more confusion regarding the real position of the PA.

It is known that the General Assembly has traditionally supported the Palestinian cause. However, it has now become necessary to attract even more supporters. Moreover, concentrated efforts need to be made to reach a quasi-consensus instead of a majority, especially since the drafting of Palestine’s bid will include very important points. It should include a clear statement that East Jerusalem is the capital of this state based on the borders of the state on June 4, 1967. It should also not that this state is still under Israeli occupation. This would push the General Assembly and the international community to side with the Palestinian people to force Israel to withdraw completely from Palestinian territories.

However, the postponement of the vote does not really depend on the PA’s strategy in presenting their bid. In fact, some in the PA believe that delaying the vote is an intermediate solution, between presenting their request to the General Assembly and postponing the vote. In this case, the PA will seem as if it has fulfilled its pledge to the UN and the General Assembly, to submit its bid for statehood, while at the same time giving in to international pressure — particular from the US.

The US is pressuring the Palestinians to delay the UN bid, as it would place the Obama administration in a difficult situation given that Obama is currently in the middle of a presidential campaign for a second term. The US notes that Palestinians will still be able to resubmit their bid, to be voted on after the US elections, since the General Assembly session will continue until September 2013. At this time, things will be clearer regarding the true nature of Palestinian and Arab efforts to attract the support of states that remain reluctant to support the PA bid.

According to press reports, the PA see the proposal of Nabil al-Arabi, Secretary General of the Arab League, as a way to avoid embarrassment. Arabi suggested that Palestinians submit their bid without voting on it. This proposal indicates that some Arab states are reluctant to stand up to the US during the presidential elections, entertaining the hope that better opportunities will present themselves, should Obama win the elections. It seems that during Obama’s four-year term, Arab leaders — including those in the PA — have failed to recognize that US support for Israel is absolute, regardless of elections or tactics. Both Republicans and Democrats have the same supportive position towards Israel. Those who believe that the US position will change in this regard are making a foolish gamble, and will be subjected to political and financial pressures in the framework of supporting the Israeli government.

In fact, Araby’s proposal, which is ostensibly meant to find a way out of this critical situation, is instead serving as a way to go further down this erroneous path. We have yet to learn from our experiences with different American administrations and their position towards Israel. Reluctance to submit and vote on the bid will eventually form a rift between the states that support our national cause. Furthermore, the procedures related to this bid began a few months ago. The PA should have made more of an effort to influence its allies and those states that were reluctant to support its bid. Postponing these endeavors until September suggests that international tours carried out by the Palestinian president, the interior minister and various envoys — which were aimed at garnering support for the bid — were in vain. This goes against statements these officials made following each visit to a different country.

The PA is being presented with two options: either to stand up to US-Israeli will, or to continue to receive financial aid, in order to pressure the Palestinian people to give in to American and Israeli stipulations. The latest popular movements against the high cost of living and corruption have served as another opportunity to take a wrong position!

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Found in: palestinians, palestinian, nabil al-arabi, arab
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