- 12 ноября 2012, 16:10
Palestinians refuse to postpone attempt to get 'non-member state' status at UN despite personal appeal by US president
The Palestinian leadership has rejected a personal appeal by Barack Obama to delay its bid to win recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations general assembly, insisting that it will submit a resolution no later than 29 November.
The US president telephoned Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Sunday to reiterate his opposition to the move. The Palestinians have circulated a draft resolution to the 193 countries of the UN which seeks support for "non-member state" status.
Senior Palestinian official Mohammed Shtayyeh told a press conference in Ramallah: "We are not postponing this step under any circumstances." The final date of the submission of the resolution will be announced by the Arab League in Cairo on Tuesday.
The most important reason for the move was "to preserve the two-state solution" to the conflict, he said. The Palestinians were prepared to return to talks with Israel after winning recognition at the general assembly, but non-member state status would "create new terms of reference for any future negotiations", he said.
"We're hoping the UN bid becomes a pressure mechanism on Israel to come to the negotiating table with serious proposals."
The Palestinians, who need only a simple majority, are confident of winning at least 130 votes. The United States vetoed an attempt last year to be admitted to the UN as a full member state, but there is no right of veto at the general assembly.
European Union countries are expected to split, with around 12 voting in favour. Britain, which has made vigorous efforts to persuade the Palestinians to delay the move, is expected to oppose the resolution, in line with the United States.
Israel and the US have warned that punitive measures could follow the move. Israel is threatening to select from a "toolbox" of measures, which include withholding tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the authorisation of further settlement expansion and – according to some accounts – even the annexation of parts of the West Bank to take the main settlement into Israel. The US is likely to concentrate on punitive financial measures.
"We may have difficult times ahead," Shtayyer said. But Arab countries had pledged to contribute $100m (£63m) each month "to provide a safety net if there are consequences [to the UN bid]".
"When people speak about punishment measures, it makes us wonder what we did to deserve this. We don't think such a [step] deserves any punishment," he said.
The Palestinians were pursuing peaceful measures through a multilateral forum, he said. "We have been asked to choose between bread and freedom. Our choice is both. Of course we need bread but we need freedom as well."
A successful bid would allow the Palestinians to become members of international bodies, such as the international criminal court, which is a major factor in Israel's opposition.
Shtayyer said: "If anyone is worried about this court or that, it would be better if they did not commit atrocities against the Palestinian people."
He said they had already postponed the move until after the US election, but would not countenance further delays. The Palestinian leadership hoped to see more US engagement to resolve the conflict in Obama's second term.
However, the Palestinians "are not going into negotiations that are humiliating. We are not interested in using negotiations as an umbrella for the intensification of [Israeli] colonisation." Palestinian negotiators would continue to demand a freeze on settlement expansion as a precondition of fresh talks.
The draft resolution specified that the state of Palestine should be based on the internationally recognised pre-1967 border known as the Green Line, but that final borders could be determined in talks.
The Palestinian leadership wanted to avoid creating "high expectations for our people. We know that this measure does not end the occupation."