Palestinians May Delay Call for Quick UN Vote


palestinian-terroristsThe Palestinian Authority, while determined to seek full membership in the United Nations, won’t push for an immediate vote in the Security Council, where it doesn’t yet have enough support for its statehood bid.

Allowing the UN’s administrative process to slow down a Palestinian application to the Security Council would give diplomats time to look for an alternative that restarts peace talks. The U.S. is using the time to lean on council members to abstain from voting in favor of the Palestinians, who are fighting to retain supporters.

“We will give some time to the Security Council to consider first our full membership request before heading to the General Assembly,” Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath told reporters today. ” If we fail, we will keep knocking on the door. We do not have a time limit.”

Once a membership application has been lodged, the Security Council can either act fast or hold things up. In the case of South Sudan it took three days to make the African country the UN’s 193rd member while in the case of Jordan it took five years. In the case of the Palestinians, an admissions committee representing all 15 Security Council members can be set up to deliberate on the matter for days, weeks, or even months.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will speak at the UN General Assembly and formally submit his letter of application to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who will then pass it on to Lebanon, which presides this month over the Security Council. It’s the only Arab country in the 15-member body and supports the Palestinian bid.

Not a Bluff

“”We do not think about it as a tactic or a bluff,” Shaath told reporters today. We are ”not seeking to join the Mafia or al-Qaeda.”

Another option open for the Palestinians would be to pursue an upgraded status at the General Assembly from ”entity” to ”non-member state.” That could enable them to sign international treaties and have cases heard in the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinians have said eight of the council’s members – – Russia, China, Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Lebanon and India — will back them. The U.S.’s veto pledge notwithstanding, that still leaves the Palestinians one vote short of the nine needed for membership.

Slow Tracking

”The idea of majorly slow-tracking this is being floated by multiple officials, including Palestinian officials, American officials, and it’s being welcomed,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, a Washington-based group that advocates a peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict.

In what U.S. Secretary of State Clinton referred to as “extremely intense” diplomacy, Israel and the U.S. may be making headway in eroding support, even among countries the Palestinians have been counting on.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met in New York with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and convinced him to stay neutral in a possible vote on Palestinian statehood, according to a statement released yesterday by his Barak’s office.

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN,” U.S. President Barack Obama said today of Palestinian plans to seek the world body’s recognition.

A Vote Short

“At this point it does not look like the Palestinians have the nine affirmative votes they would need” to pass a resolution at the Security Council, said Jennifer Lazlos Mizrahi, founder of the Israel Project, a Washington-based pro- Israel advocacy group.

The Israel Project has met with more than 80 ambassadors in an effort to lobby against the Palestinian bid for recognition. The group brought 18 ambassadors and one other senior diplomat to Israel and Ramallah, the Palestinian capitol, Mizrahi said.

Security Council members Britain, FranceGermanyPortugal, Colombia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are among the countries that are being actively courted.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, addressing the UN General Assembly today, said the Palestinians can’t now obtain full member-state status through the Security Council and said a U.S. veto “risks engendering a cycle of violence.”

‘Intermediate Step’

Sarkozy endorsed the “intermediate step” of observer- state status, granted through a vote by the General Assembly.

“This would be an important step forward,” he said, as he also proposed a one-year timetable for resumed Israeli- Palestinian negotiations that lead to a full peace accord. The talks should begin within a month without preconditions, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met today with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, thanked him for “support for the position” of Israel, according to the premier’s office.

The U.K. and France, which have been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, have said they want to see a return to the negotiating table first. Germany is most likely to side with Israel while Portugal leans toward the Palestinians. Still, the European countries are inclined to show a united front and may be reaching a consensus to stay neutral.

Special Attention

Some countries rarely have received so much attention. Bosnia and Herzegovina is thesmallest country in the Security Council and its ambassador to the UN is a 36-year-old Croat, who says he’s been contacted by Israel, the Palestinians and the U.S.

Among nations on the Security Council, Brazil, Russia, China, India, Lebanon, South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Gabon and Nigeria have already recognized a Palestinian state bilaterally, according to Shaath.

“Like most countries in this assembly we believe the time has come,” for the Palestinians to take their right to statehood to the UN, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff told the General Assembly.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that “no one should deny the Palestinians the right to ask the Security Council to consider recognizing them as a state.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, representing the so-called Quartet mediating group, are leading a last-minute bid to work out an agreement that might lure Abbas back into talks and avoid a showdown at the Security Council.

The Quartet is comprised of the U.S., UN, European Union and Russia.

Some Time

The Palestinians “are not going to be fobbed off” but ‘there is a machinery at the UN,” Blair said in an interview with Charlie Rose on Bloomberg Television. “That process doesn’t happen overnight. That will take some time.”

Blair said he is working on a statement that will ask Palestinians and Israelis to return to direct talks under a “very tough timeline” and commit to resolving the issues of settlements and borders first. He declined to give details.

Peace negotiations collapsed last year following Netanyahu’s decision not to extend a 10-month partial freeze of construction in the West Bank’s Jewish settlements. Abbas has said he won’t resume talks while building continues. Netanyahu, who hasn’t offered to resume the freeze in settlement building, has repeatedly said that Abbas should restart direct talks.

Read more: Bloomberg News

{Bloomberg News/ Newscenter}