Friday 23 September 2011

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas makes UN statehood bid


Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has submitted his bid to the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state. To rapturous applause in the General Assembly, he urged the Security Council to back a state with pre-1967 borders. He said the Palestinians had entered negotiations with Israel with sincere intentions, but blamed the building of Jewish settlements for their failure. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said he was reaching out to Palestinians and blamed them for refusing to negotiate. "I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner in peace," he said in his speech in New York. "Let's meet here today in the United Nations. Who's there to stop us?" Mr Netanyahu added that the core of the conflict was not settlements but the refusal of the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Hours after receiving it, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon transmitted the Palestinian request to the Security Council. Israel and the US say a Palestinian state can only be achieved through talks with Israel - not through UN resolutions. 'Come to peace' President Barack Obama told Mr Abbas on Thursday that the US would use its UN Security Council veto to block the move. Continue reading the main story Analysis Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor, New York Some delegations here at the UN in New York gave Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas a standing ovation - they were clapping and even whistling in support. That is significant because if it comes to a vote in the Security Council - and if the Americans veto it - Palestinians have a Plan B. That Plan B is to go to the General Assembly - where there are no vetoes - and get enhanced status, not full membership but something better than they have now. The Palestinians say they want to negotiate but not in the way they have negotiated before - there has to be clear parameters and a timetable. The Palestinian point is that since 18 years of negotiation has not worked, let's try something new. "I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favour of our full membership," he told the General Assembly, in what was for him an unusually impassioned speech. He added that he hoped for swift backing. Many delegates gave him a standing ovation. "I also appeal to the states that have not yet recognised the State of Palestine to do so." "The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland," he said. He urged Israel to "come to peace". And he said the building of Jewish settlements was "the primary cause for the failure of the peace process". A spokesman for the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, criticised the speech. Salah Bardawil said Mr Abbas had deviated from the aspirations of the Palestinian people by accepting the 1967 borders, which he said left 80% of Palestinian land inside Israel. 'Future and destiny' Meanwhile in the West Bank, crowds roared their approval as Mr Abbas demanded UN acceptance of a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders. Continue reading the main story Middle East viewpoints Analyst Yezid Sayigh argues that US and Israeli policies have forced the Palestinians to resort to requesting full UN membership. Israeli commentator Yossi Klein Halevi argues that the Palestinians need to convince the Israelis that any state would not be a threat. "With our souls, with our blood, we will defend Palestine," they said. Mr Abbas had called for peaceful marches in support of his initiative, but some clashes were reported: One Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops during clashes in the village of Qusra, south of Nablus, Palestinian sources say At the Qalandiya checkpoint, Israeli troops fired tear gas on stone-throwing Palestinian youths In the village of Nabi Saleh, protesters burned Israeli flags and pictures of President Obama The process began with Mr Abbas presenting a written request for a State of Palestine to be admitted as a full UN member state to the UN secretary general. The BBC's Kim Ghattas at the UN says that until the last minute Western diplomats tried and failed to stop the Palestinians making the request. Even now, efforts are under way to restart direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians in an attempt to defuse tensions, our correspondent says. The Security Council will examine it and vote on the request. In order to pass, it would need the backing of nine out of 15 council members, with no vetoes from the permanent members. A Security Council vote could take weeks to come about and the US may not even need to exercise its veto - Washington and Israel have been lobbying council members to either vote against the Palestinian plan or abstain. Continue reading the main story Palestinian UN membership bid Palestinians currently have permanent observer entity status at the UN They are represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Officials now want an upgrade so a state of Palestine has full member status at the UN They seek recognition on 1967 borders - in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Enhanced observer member status could be an interim option Q&A: Palestinians' UN statehood plans Why Obama has turned towards Israel French President Nicolas Sarkozy has urged a compromise, suggesting the General Assembly give the Palestinians enhanced status as a non-member state to allow a clear timeline for talks - a month to start negotiations, six months to deal with borders and security and a year to finalise a "definitive agreement". A vote on enhanced status - enjoyed by others such as the Vatican - would not require a Security Council recommendation but a simple majority in the General Assembly, where no veto is possible. Currently the Palestinians have observer status at the UN. The "Quartet" of US, European, Russian and UN mediators has been working on reaching a framework agreement to restart talks, based on Mr Obama's vision of borders fashioned from Israel's pre-1967 boundary, with agreed land swaps.