Saturday, 17 September 2011

Palestinians See U.N. Bid as Their Most Viable Option By ETHAN BRONNER and ISABEL KERSHNER Published: September 17, 2011 Recommend Twitter Linkedin comments (206) Sign In to E-Mail Print Reprints Share RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian decision to apply for full United Nations membership at the Security Council, announced Friday by President Mahmoud Abbas, was the most viable of the only options possible: surrender, return to violence or appeal to the international community, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday. Enlarge This Image Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian official, this month. He spoke to journalists on Saturday before leaving for the United Nations. Multimedia Interactive Feature The Battle of the Barrier Related News Analysis: Tumult of Arab Spring Prompts Worries in Washington (September 18, 2011) News Analysis: Israel and Turkey, Foes and Much Alike (September 18, 2011) Palestinians Set Bid for U.N. 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He said that the appeal would change the ground rules of the conflict, and that although the Obama administration had vowed to veto the request and Israel had threatened punitive countermeasures, the Arab uprisings should make them reconsider. “If I were President Obama or Israel, I would ask myself what is happening in the region,” he said, adding of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel: “Mr. Netanyahu is a pragmatist. If the odds change, he may change his calculations.” Going to the Security Council instead of to the General Assembly, where there is no veto and where a pro-Palestinian majority is virtually guaranteed, has been considered a riskier and more confrontational approach because it invites an American veto. But American, European and Israeli officials are now quietly arguing that the Security Council may prove easier for diplomats seeking a formula to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. The application through the Security Council will take longer because it will involve letters, committee formation and most likely requests for more time to study the situation. Mr. Netanyahu’s office seemed eager to sound open to renewing talks even after Mr. Abbas presents his membership request letter to the United Nations. It labeled the application useless rather than terminal and added, “When the Palestinian Authority abandons these futile and unilateral measures at the U.N., it will find Israel to be a genuine partner for direct peace negotiations.” Mr. Shaath himself said that while Mr. Abbas’s speech on Friday was aimed at “reassuring our people and the world that we are not hesitating,” Mr. Abbas “left a door open at the end.” American and European officials are still hoping to produce a statement to be issued by the so-called Quartet — the diplomatic group focused on the Middle East that is made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — to accompany any United Nations debate and serve as a point to restart negotiations. But Mr. Shaath was blunt in his dismissal of the elements of a statement presented to Mr. Abbas on Thursday by Dennis B. Ross and David M. Hale, two senior American officials. Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and Quartet representative, has been the central player in drafting the statement. Quartet envoys were due to meet in New York on Sunday. Mr. Shaath said the statement “violated six parameters of the peace process,” including accepting Israeli settlement growth, calling Israel a “Jewish state,” pre-empting discussion of a right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, and rejecting efforts to unify rival Palestinian factions: Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which rules in Gaza. “I think that was the final blow, the final straw,” he said of the statement presented at the meeting with Mr. Ross and Mr. Hale. “After that, President Abbas decided to go to the Security Council.” Mr. Shaath said that when he himself saw the Quartet statement proposal: “I gulped. This was the statement that was supposed to persuade President Abbas not to go? Mr. Blair doesn’t sound like a neutral interlocutor. He sounds like an Israeli diplomat sometimes.” Mr. Shaath distributed a 35-page booklet he and his colleagues plan to give to every United Nations delegation. Titled “Recognizing Palestine: An Investment in Peace,” it lists four reasons the Palestinians have taken this course: acts by Israel that undermine peace, international responsibility toward the Palestinians, the growth of Jewish settlements and intensifying Israeli designs on East Jerusalem. In discussing these issues on Saturday, Mr. Shaath was particularly cutting about settlements. He said the new Quartet statement never mentioned them except as “demographic changes since 1967” and “new facts on the ground.” “Mr. Netanyahu doesn’t want to pay any price,” he said. “He wants no swaps. He wants everything for free.” Israeli leaders make the same accusation of the Palestinians — they are unwilling to give up any of their longstanding demands and to recognize that after more than four decades, circumstances have changed. Each side accuses the other of violating the Oslo Accords, the 1993 framework that rules their relationship, although neither is willing to declare Oslo dead, only moribund. Mr. Shaath said that the United Nations move would bring new legitimacy to the Palestinian leadership which, under Mr. Abbas, had “succeeded in bringing in a new culture of nonviolence,” adding, “We are not going back to violence.” He said Palestinian security forces would make sure that street demonstrations in coming days would be contained and peaceful. In an example, hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli women and supporters demonstrated on Saturday for an independent Palestine on both sides of the Kalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. The usually traffic-clogged crossing, a point of friction where young Palestinians often clash with Israeli soldiers, was closed to cars by the Israeli military. Despite the throngs of demonstrators, the atmosphere remained calm, with little of the usual stone-throwing by rioters or firing of tear gas by the military. Some Palestinian youths made V-signs and posed for photographs next to Israeli soldiers. A version of this article appeared in print on September 18, 2011, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Palestinians See U.N. Appeal as Most Viable Option. comments (206) Sign In to E-Mail Print Reprints Connect with The New York Times on Facebook. More Headlines From Around the Web Sponsored Links Caring.comCaring for Someone with Alzheimer's? 18 Activities to Bring Back a Smile Tablet MagazineAnglo Caring.comI'm Done! 5 Biggest Issues That Sabotage Family Caregivers ELLE.comThe Queen’s Not Thrilled With Kate Middleton’s Exhibition Get Free E-mail Alerts on These Topics Palestinians Security Council (UN) Shaath, Nabil Israel Ads by Google what's this? Accpac too expensive? Convert to Adagio overnight. Unlimited users. 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