This week, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority (PLO) President plans to make a speech at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City, where he will ask that the status of “Palestine” be upgraded from “non-member entity” to “non-member state,” giving it the same status as the Holy See or the Vatican.
Israel is vehemently opposed to this move by Abbas. Hard-line Israeli Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that the UN recognition of Palestine “will destroy Israeli deterrence and harm its credibility.” He has also said that Israel should topple the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, if he presses ahead with a request for recognition of the state of Palestine by the United Nations general assembly.
Israel has also threatened to impose sanctions on the Palestinians if they proceed with the UN recognition request. The minister of strategic affairs, Moshe Yaalon, has warned that the Palestinians would pay a “heavy price” and the move would be a “flagrant breach” of the Oslo Accords. Another government minister, Gilad Erdan, has called for the immediate annexation of all Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Yet another Israel minister, the Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, has threatened to withhold tax revenues if Palestinians make the UN statehood bid.
Despite all these threats by Israel and the opposition of the United States, Palestinians seem to be intent on proceeding with the request for the upgrade of their status. Israel has already softened its opposition and it is now holding secret talks with the U.S. to soften the wording of the UN resolution.
More than half of the EU countries are expected to support the Palestinians bid for “non-member state” status. France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark are among the European supporters, while the United Kingdom and Germany are apparently expected to oppose the move.
Polls show that more than half of Palestinian believe the UN bid will succeed. The U.S. is still working behind the scenes to derail the Palestinian efforts. But, even if the bid is successful, tangible results will be slow to materialize. The main significance will be symbolic. But, Israel is afraid that the newly recognized Palestinian “state” will be able to bring suits at the International Criminal Court (ICC), for example by challenging the occupation of the West Bank by Israel. According to Reuters, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated in private he fears Palestinians might accuse his government of violating the Geneva Conventions’ prohibition on forced displacement of populations by establishing settlements.”
While the Palestinian bid at the UN for recognition as a non-member state may succeed, it will take a considerable length of time before its impact is felt on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, the move will certainly bolster the position of Mr. Abbas, particularly since he was completely left out of the recent negotiations on establishing truce in the “war” between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.