UN to vote on Palestinian status
The UN General Assembly is set to approve an implicit recognition of Palestinian statehood today despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding funds for the West Bank government.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the assembly to recognise Palestinian statehood by supporting a resolution to upgrade the UN observer status of the Palestinian Authority from "entity" to "non-member state".
"The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine," Abbas told the 193-nation assembly, according to the written text of his speech this evening.
"Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel," Mr Abbas said.
The resolution that would give the Palestinian Authority similar status to the Vatican is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation General Assembly. At least 15 European states plan to vote for it.
Israel, the United States and a handful of other members are set to vote against what they see as a largely symbolic and counterproductive move by the Palestinians, which takes place on the 65th anniversary of the assembly's adoption of resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been leading the campaign to win support for the resolution, which follows an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel's destruction and oppose his efforts toward a negotiated peace.
The US State Department made a last-ditch effort to get Abbas to reconsider, but the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, gave no sign that it was turning back.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated to reporters in Washington yesterday the US view that the Palestinian move was misguided and efforts should focus instead on reviving the stalled Middle East peace process.
"The path to a two-state solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York," she said. "The only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiations."
Speaking at an annual UN event in support of the Palestinians, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki appealed to UN member states to support today's UN resolution. He also repeated his support for peace with Israel.
"Despite diminishing hopes and the decline of the situation on the ground due to Israel violations, we remain committed to the two-state solution and our hand remains extended in peace," he said at UN headquarters in New York.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated US warnings that the move could cause a reduction of US economic support for the Palestinians. The Israelis have also warned they might take significant deductions out of monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinians' behalf.
Despite its fierce opposition, Israel seems concerned not to find itself diplomatically isolated. It has recently toned down threats of retaliation in the face of wide international support for the initiative, notably among its European allies.