Palestinians to press for full UN recognition
The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, made it clear last night that he was going ahead with his application for statehood at the UN and suggested the international community had left it "too late" to find a formula that would forestall the request.
Despite US efforts to dissuade him, Mr Abbas said he planned to go to the UN on 19 September to submit the application. He said he expected it to be formally lodged with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, on 21 or 22 September, adding: "We have an application in hand. Everything is ready."
The Palestinian President affirmed that he would reconsider only if Israel froze settlement building and agreed to negotiate on a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders.
He acknowledged that Tony Blair, as envoy of the international Quartet of the UN, EU, UN and Russia, was working on a joint statement to restart negotiations that could prevent the UN bid going ahead. But he told foreign reporters in his Muqata headquarters that the Quartet was too late after wasting the previous year. "When they come here to tell us OK we have this idea or this package and don't go to the UN, we will not accept it," he said.
Mr Abbas repeated several times during his hour-long briefing that he was not seeking a "confrontation" with the US or President Barack Obama, declaring: "I am not going to lose good relations with the US. I am in need of them. I want to keep my relations. If they don't want that, that's up to them. I don't want confrontation."
Mr Abbas also expressed irritation at strongly expressed US and Israeli concerns that either full UN membership – or the lesser "non-member state" status available via the UN General Assembly – would permit the Palestinians to take Israel to the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. He said: "The Israelis continue attacking the Palestinians everywhere and the international community says don't go to the ICC... We don't want to go to the ICC for nothing. Tell the Israelis not to attack the Palestinians, and we will not go there."
The US has already made it clear that it would veto a bid for full membership through the UN Security Council. But Mr Abbas's remarks – in English – came after tentative signs that US officials were increasingly resigned to the Palestinian President lodging his application and that they would then allow an expert committee to consider its merits in what could be a long, drawn-out process before any actual Security Council vote.
The Palestinian President emphatically denied suggestions by Israel that demonstrations in support of the UN application could become violent, saying: "We gave guarantees that security will be under control as far as we are concerned and we will maintain law and order." Officials say Palestinian security forces have been ordered to ensure demonstrations are confined to Palestinian cities. Saying that there would be no violence "on our side," he added: "We are afraid that Israelis will send settlers and dogs to attack Palestinians."
The Israeli military has been preparing for possible acts of violence by Palestinian demonstrators in the coming weeks and Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN, said in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv that he is trying to persuade UN member states that the Palestinians' application for membership was a recipe not for peace but for "violence and bloodshed".
Settlers were under suspicion yesterday for torching two Palestinian cars, uprooting an olive grove and daubing graffiti on a mosque as a probable "price tag" for the military's demolition of three buildings in an illegal settlement outpost earlier in the week.
Independent News Service