Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has won the approval of the United Nations General Assembly for ‘Palestine’ as a nonmember state, a dramatic move that may have wide-reaching implications. Though Israel and the US vociferously opposed the move, it passed by a wide margin. The Times of Israel liveblogged developments from Jerusalem and New York. Read how the events unfolded here.
Preamble: November 29, 1947, saw the United Nations vote to split Mandatory Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Sixty-five years later to the day, the Palestinians are turning to the world body and asking the international community to grant them nonmember status, a move that will give them recognition worldwide as a member of the community of nations.
Israel has vociferously opposed the statehood move, which it says will bypass peace talks and make conditions for a two-state solution more difficult. But after years of stalled talks, Ramallah says going to the UN for statehood is a last-ditch measure made to force Israel to negotiate based on the 1967 lines.
The General Assembly is expected to convene at 3 p.m. New York time (10 p.m. in Israel) to discuss and then vote on the resolution. After opening words from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli UN ambassador Ron Prosor will both speak. The vote is expected to take place at around 5 p.m. and Palestinians say they believe at least 130 countries will vote in favor of statehood.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the bid would delay Palestinian self-determination.
“The UN resolution will not change anything on the ground… It won’t bring a Palestinian state closer to existence, but push it further away,” he said.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Prosor said the Palestinians were not ready for statehood. That likely previewed the content of his speech.
“The foundations for real Palestinian statehood and real peace can only be laid through hard work on the ground and direct talks with Israel,” he wrote.
The US, which is expected to be one of a handful of countries to abstain or vote no, has stepped up efforts aimed at pulling Abbas back. On Wednesday, senior state department official William Burns met with Abbas and pleaded with him to withdraw the resolution, according to reports. Abbas said it was too late.
Yet some in Jerusalem, most notably former prime minister Ehud Olmert, have come out in support of the move, saying that moderates like Abbas need to be strengthened in the face of challenges from Hamas.
Others point to several statements by Abbas, such as the one delivered earlier this month to the Arab League, that seemed to suggest a willingness to return to negotiations in the wake of the UN vote.
“If it is possible to start talks on the following day [after the UN vote] then we are ready for that,” Abbas told reporters in Cairo.
The granting of statehood is likely to have a number of wide-reaching implications. The Palestinians may gain access to a number of world bodies, including the International Criminal Court, which it can use to prosecute Israel for war crimes.
For its part, Israel has threatened to impose a number of punitive measures on the PA, like collecting on a NIS 700 million debt owed the Israel Electric Corporation. That would strain ties. Congress may also look to penalize the Palestinians or the United Nations.
Meir Indor, the CEO of the Almagor Terror Victims Association says EU countries’ support of the Palestinian UN bid represents a victory for terror.
“The Europeans should not cooperate with Abbas. He and his staff take great pride in past terrorist attacks and glorify present day ‘martyrs,’” he says in a statement. “For the Palestinian terrorist organizations, the UN vote is a day of triumph and joy; for us, the terror victims, it is a black day.”
Indor, who describes himself as a second-generation Holocaust survivor, says European countries should have learned from the past.
“Those countries that collaborated with the slaughter of Jews in Europe, should have at least stood to the side, if not expressed solidarity with us Jews who suffered from the terrorist acts of the Palestinian leaders who are being recognized today,” he says.
Yair Shamir, son of the former prime minister and now looking to enter the Knesset with Yisrael Beytenu, writes on Facebook that Abbas’s UN bid is ‘meaningless’ and will drive him away from peace talks:
“Today’s actions taken by Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations more than anything else prove that Israel does not have a partner for peace. Instead of negotiating in good faith with Israel, Abbas wants to get everything for free from the ‘automatic majority’ in the United Nations General Assembly. Any ‘virtual’ achievement handed to Abbas outside of negotiations with Israel pushes him further away from the negotiating table, and tells Israelis that meaningless words and upgrades in international bodies are more important than substantive agreement and measures on the ground.”
The US has been Israel’s staunchest backer against the statehood gambit, with talk of Congress even cutting off funding to the PA or UN should the Palestinians get nonmember state status.
Writing in Congressional news outlet The Hill, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, calls for the US to cut allotments to the Palestinian Authority and force Abbas to open up the PA’s books.
“Yes, the Palestinians may be successful today and no, the U.S. does not have veto power in a UN General Assembly vote, but there still can and should be consequences for the irresponsible actions of President Abbas and his old cronies,” he writes. “Last year, we gave the Palestinian Authority $495 million. In the same timeframe, President Abbas’ office budget was $72 million yet he refuses to tell us or anyone else how he spends it. There are even press reports that his own salary is $1 million a month. According to their own documents, the Palestinian Authority spent $194 million last year alone on offices that helped promote the Palestinians’ push for recognition at the UN. The U.S. should immediately cut funding to the PLO by at least $72 million next year and require President Abbas to open up his budget for all to see. The days of giving money away to other nations with no transparency and no consequences for irresponsible behavior should be over.”
Dozens of far-right activists, including two Knesset members, have held a rally outside the UN’s headquarters in Jerusalem, with one man being detained after trying to burn a Palestinian flag.
Clashes were reported at the scene as police prevented the demonstrators from igniting the flags.
Attending the rally were MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari, currently of the National Union party. Both recently announced they would leave National Union to form the Power to Israel Party.
The detained man has been identified as the campaign director of Power to Israel, Benzi Gopstein.
Times of Israel bloggers have plenty to say about the UN the vote on Palestinian statehood – for and against. Tomas Sandell, a pro-Israel Finnish journalist, sees no gain for Israel or the Palestinians, Law student Avi Charney argues that the Palestinian judicial system is nowhere near ready for statehood status. On the other hand, Iranian-Israeli commentator Meir Javedanfar says Israel needs to support its potential peace partner and is rooting for Abbas at the UN and Arno Rosenfeld also favors letting Abbas win in order to boost his credibility on the Palestinian street.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is appealing to all nations to vote in favor of a UN resolution recognizing the state of Palestine as “an investment in peace.”
In a statement Thursday ahead of the vote, Abbas says that despite diminishing hopes and a worsening situation on the ground due to Israeli violations, “we remain committed to the two-state solution and our hand remains extended in peace.”
He says this is why the Palestinians embarked on the “peaceful, political initiative” to raise their UN status from an observer to a nonmember observer state.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki read the statement at a UN event marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Abbas sat on the dais listening.
Two-hundred left-wing activists take part in a Tel Aviv rally organized by the Meretz and Hadash political parties in support of the Palestinian UN bid.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horovitz says Israel has nothing to fear from the Palestinian move and that it will help Israel retain its Jewish and democratic character.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly invited Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-on and others in the peace-camp to his office in Ramallah upon his return from New York.
A bipartisan group of senators is warning the Palestinians that they could lose US financial aid and face the shutdown of the Washington office if they use upgraded UN status against Israel.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John Barrasso and Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez say they will push for an amendment to the defense bill on the Palestinians.
The legislation would cut off US aid if the Palestinians use their newfound status to file charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Unwillingness to conduct meaningful negotiations with Israel would result in the closing of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington.
Channel 2 TV’s diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal reports that Israeli officials are reacting harshly to the Palestinian’s statehood bid, saying that the net effect will be the death of the Oslo peace accords.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman had threatened to discard the 1994 agreement in response to the bid, but earlier this week a ministry official said Jerusalem would make do with other punitive measures and would not cancel the accords.
The historic agreement created the Palestinian Authority and gave them control over parts of the West Bank. The deal was meant to be the first step in creating a Palestinian state, but became bogged down in subsequent negotiations and in violence.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to the fringe Neturei Karta group, which rejects all forms of Zionism, take part in pro-statehood rallies in Ramallah.
One man bedecked in traditional Haredi garb told the crowd that he respected Abbas for his actions.
The crowd seemed to react positively to the speech, according to a video aired on Israel’s Channel 2 TV.
Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, does not mince words in explaining why Israel opposes the Palestinian’s statehood gambit.
Speaking to Channel 2, Prosor says the vote at the General Assembly will accomplish nothing but show that the UN wants to give the Palestinians “a prize for terror.”
“There is no other way than direct talks,” he says. “An independent Palestine will not be created by the UN.”
Prosor adds that Europe may think it is helping the Palestinians, but in fact was pushing them further from real peace and independence.
The idea has been a theme of Israeli talking points, as Jerusalem seeks to convince the world that the Palestinians must negotiate with Israel for a two-state solution and not bypass them via the UN.
Prosor is scheduled to address the General Assembly after Abbas, shortly after 3 p.m. New York time. But he no doubt realizes that he will be coming up against a near tsunami of support for the Palestinians. Some 150 countries are expected to vote yes on the motion, with five voting no and the rest abstaining.
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Prosor said UN members should think twice about supporting the Palestinians, who he said were not ready for a state.
Thursday also marks International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The UN is marking the occasion, and the historic vote, with an exhibit of Palestinian art.
The exhibit is set to open at 6 p.m., after the vote, though visitors to the UN’s headquarters in New York can already see it.
According to the UN, four artists will be represented who “express their heritage, identity, dreams and memories through a variety of forms and materials.”
Suha Arafat, the widow of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, says she sees a spiritual significance in the timing of her late husband’s exhumation, which came just two days before the UN vote on whether to recognize a Palestinian state.
Arafat’s widow says the exhumation — aimed to determine whether Arafat was poisoned — “was as if his soul was resurrecting” ahead of Thursday’s vote in the General Assembly.
Her husband’s death in November 2004, a month after suddenly falling ill, she says, is “the most important mystery of the Middle East.”
Seemingly playing the role of referee, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls on Israelis and Palestinians to work together toward peace — while refusing to say whether he supports granting the Palestinian Authority observer state status.
“I call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision and determination,” he says in a statement. “I also urge the international community to help them forge a credible political path that will meet the legitimate aspirations of both sides.”
Ban says only direct talks would solve “final status issues,” a nod to Israel’s complaint that the PA’s UN bid aimed to circumvent negotiations.
However he also calls to “preserve the commendable achievements of the Palestinian Authority’s state-building efforts in the West Bank and the territorial contiguity it needs.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman flew to New York for the vote and is scheduled to meet with Ban on Thursday, AP reported.
With international attention on the United Nations and Thursday’s vote on Palestinian statehood, Israelis are spending the moments before the meeting watching basketball, or the popular investigative program Kolbotec on TV.
In basketball news, Maccabi Tel Aviv is down by two points to Elan Chalon in Euroleague play, as they try to keep pace with the French club and advance to the next round.
Israel’s two main news channels, while devoting much of their 8 p.m. broadcasts to the UN gambit, have switched back to business as usual. But they promise to return to coverage of the event later in the night as the vote approaches.
Tensions mounted ahead of Abbas’s bid for statehood in the Security Council last year, but Israelis and Palestinians seem more relaxed this time — perhaps calmed by the fact that the outcome is known or by the fact that Palestine still won’t be receiving a full upgrade at the UN, or simply weary of the conflict’s seemingly endless political and diplomatic maneuvering.
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, at the UN as part of the entourage of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, tells the Times of Israel that the Palestinians are committed to coming to the negotiating table — but only if Israel halts settlement construction, a demand that has helped block negotiations for several years.
“There is Palestinian willingness, even after this decision, to come to the negotiating table on the basis of international law, and that’s something that will be said in [Abbas's] speech,” he said. “The ball will be in Israel’s court.”
Tibi, known as a vocal lawmaker who is often critical of Israeli policies, said Abbas would negotiate only if Israel stops settlement construction, a demand he has held for several years and which has played a role in scuttling talks since the 2009 election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“[Abbas] is willing to come to the table, but on the condition that the government of Israel refrains from doing those things that will harm the outcome of those negotiations. For example, [continued expansion of] settlements,” he said at the UN building in New York. “After the decision is made, the state of Palestine in its entirety will be under occupation and therefore the Geneva Convention will be relevant.”
He added that the Palestinians would not use their new status to go to the International Criminal Court, but that could change, depending on ”developments on the ground.”
Israel’s attempts to rally opposition to the vote, he said, were “a farce.”
“The Israeli government wasted time and the Palestinians are about to score a beautiful goal in this historic event,” he said.
With the General Assembly plenary session to start in the coming minutes, delegates are filing into the UN’s massive main hall in New York.
According to Times of Israel correspondent Haviv Rettig Gur, on the scene, the reporters’ gallery is overbooked, with worldwide interest in the vote running high even though the outcome is not in doubt.
The session will begin with the plenary president saying a few words, followed by the presentation of the Palestinians’ resolution by Sudan’s representative. After that, Abbas and Prosor will speak, followed by the plenary president again and then the foreign ministers of Canada, Turkey and Indonesia.
The vote is expected to take place at about 5 p.m. New York time.
You can watch a live feed of the session here.
And read the full text of the draft resolution here.
US Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents and a key pro-Israel advocate in American Jewry, tells the Times of Israel that the Thursday vote “will set a precedent that other countries will come to regret — when disputed territories can come to the UN to upgrade their status without negotiations.”
“The loser today is the prospect for peace,” he says.
“The Palestinian Authority will be no different tomorrow than they are today,” he says. “If after this they do not go to direct negotiations then nothing will change. This is an illusory victory that will give them an immediate ‘charge’ but no long-term gain.”
The United Nations accidentally sent out a tweet, quickly retracted, calling for a “one-state solution” in solidarity with the Palestinians.
In fact the UN has called for a two-state solution.
Earlier Thursday, UN head Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he wanted to see ”a peace that will end the occupation that started in 1967, end the conflict and ensure that an independent, viable and sovereign State of Palestine lives side by side with a secure State of Israel.”
The plenary session has now begun after a delay of several minutes, with the General Assembly president laying out the agenda for the session before handing off to Sudan’s representative.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of President and a key pro-Israel advocate in American Jewry, tells the Times of Israel that the Thursday vote “will set a precedent that other countries will come to regret — when disputed territories can come to the UN to upgrade their status without negotiations.”
“The loser today is the prospect for peace,” he says.
“The Palestinian Authority will be no different tomorrow than they are today,” he adds. “If after this they do not go to direct negotiations then nothing will change. This is an illusory victory that will give them an immediate ‘charge’ but no long-term gain.”
MKs Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari set fire to a Palestinian flag in front of the Knesset building in Jerusalem to protest the Palestinian UN bid. Earlier in the day police prevented Eldad, Ben Ari and other right-wing activists from setting the flag on fire in front of the UN headquarters in Jerusalem, resulting in clashes where three right-wing activists were arrested.
The Sudanese representative, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, calls the meeting “historic on a historic day.”
He presents the resolution on behalf of a long list of countries, including Argentina, Iceland, Pakistan, Bahrain, Brazil, Turkey, Tunisia, Djibouti, Iraq, Palestine, Cuba and dozens of others, reading them off one by one.
Beyond the bureaucratic pomp, the very size of the list is a testament to the sheer volume of support the Palestinians enjoy in the world body.
“The assembly is called upon to grant Palestine the status of nonmember observer state,” the Sudanese representative says twice, while reading off the resolution in Arabic.
“Independence, freedom the right to self determination, these are principles enshrined by the UN charter,” he adds, and mentions that the resolution has taken a long time to get to the UN — referencing the world body’s partition resolution from 65 years ago.
“The eyes of all the children of Palestine are directed toward us,” he says.
Mahmoud Abbas is now speaking to the assembly:
“Palestine comes today to the United Nations General Assembly at a time when it is still tending to its wounds and still burying its beloved martyrs of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression, still searching for remnants of life amid the ruins of homes destroyed by Israeli bombs on the Gaza Strip, wiping out entire families, their men, women and children murdered along with their dreams, their hopes, their future and their longing to live an ordinary life and to live in freedom and peace,” he says opening his speech.
“Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace and because its people, as proven in past days, are in desperate need of it,” Abbas continues, speaking in Arabic. “Palestine comes today to this prestigious international forum, representative and protector of international legitimacy, reaffirming our conviction that the international community now stands before the last chance to save the two-State solution. Palestine comes to you today at a defining moment regionally and internationally, in order to reaffirm its presence and to try to protect the possibilities and the foundations of a just peace that is deeply hoped for in our region.”
Abbas makes mention of Israel’s recent mini-war with Hamas in Gaza, saying that it confirms “ the urgent and pressing need to end the Israeli occupation and for our people to gain their freedom and independence.”
“I say with great pain and sorrow… there was certainly no one in the world that required that tens of Palestinian children lose their lives in order to reaffirm the above-mentioned facts,” he says. “There was no need for thousands of deadly raids and tons of explosives for the world to be reminded that there is an occupation that must come to an end and that there are a people that must be liberated. And, there was no need for a new, devastating war in order for us to be aware of the absence of peace. This is why we are here today.”
It is interesting to note that neither of Israel’s two main news channels are broadcasting Abbas’s speech. Channel 2 showed the beginning but then cut away to commercial and to talk about Israeli elections.
Channel 10 is still showing basketball, even after Maccabi Tel Aviv wrapped up a 78-73 win.
Abbas makes several references to “al-Nakba,” or “the catastrophe,” the term used by Palestinians and others in the Arab world to describe their defeat and Israel’s creation in 1948.
“In those dark days, our people had looked to the United Nations as a beacon of hope and appealed for ending the injustice and for achieving justice and peace, the realization of our rights, and our people still believe in this and continue to wait.” he says. “Our people always have strived not to lose their humanity, their highest, deeply-held moral values and their innovative abilities for survival, steadfastness, creativity and hope, despite the horrors that befell them and continue befall them today as a consequence of al-Nakba and its horrors.”
Army Radio’s diplomatic correspondent Ilil Shahar says the vote will be a diplomatic humiliation for Israel, with only Israel, the US, Canada, Micronesia and a handful of other countries voting against the resolution.
She says part of the problem was that Israel wanted to believe for too long that the gambit could be stopped, and only started looking at the specifics of the draft resolution far too late.
So far, the Abbas speech has been damning toward Israel, accusing Jerusalem of “ethnic cleansing,” among other crimes.
“What permits the Israeli government to blatantly continue with its aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes stems from its conviction that it is above the law and that it has immunity from accountability and consequences,” he says. “This belief is bolstered by the failure by some to condemn and demand the cessation of its violations and crimes and by position that equate the victim and the executioner.”
“The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation,” Abbas says, garnering a healthy round of applause.
Yet he says he does not want to delegitimize Israel.
“We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel; rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of the state that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine,” he says. “We did not come here to add further complications to the peace process, which Israel’s policies have thrown into the intensive care unit; rather we came to launch a final serious attempt to achieve peace.
“Our endeavor is not aimed at terminating what remains of the negotiations process, which has lost its objective and credibility, but rather aimed at trying to breathe new life into the negotiations and at setting a solid foundation for it based on the terms of reference of the relevant international resolutions in order for the negotiations to succeed.”
Abbas rejects Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s claim that the statehood bid is a form of “terrorism.”
He then accuses Israel of killing innocent Gazans — specifically the Dalou family, who were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense two weeks ago.
“The window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering. The innocent lives that have been taken by Israeli bombs — more than 168 martyrs, mostly children and women, including 12 members of one family, the Dalou family, in Gaza — are a painful reminder to the world that this racist, colonial occupation is making the two-state solution and the prospect for realizing peace a very difficult choice, if not impossible,” he says.
Abbas rejects the claim that the statehood bid is meaningless, saying that it will be an important step forward for his people.
“Every voice supporting our endeavor today is a most valuable voice of courage, and every state that grants support today to Palestine’s request for non-member observer state status is affirming its principled and moral support for freedom and the rights of peoples and international law and peace,” he says. “Your support for our endeavor today will send a promising message — to millions of Palestinians on the land of Palestine, in the refugee camps both in the homeland and the Diaspora, and to the prisoners struggling for freedom in Israel’s prisons — that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful and that the peoples of the world do not accept the continuation of the occupation.”
Finishing his speech, Abbas makes reference to the UN partition plan of 1947, which he calls Israel’s “birth certificate,” and calls on the UN to take action now.
“Sixty-five years later … which your esteemed body has designated as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the General Assembly stands before a moral duty, which it must not hesitate to undertake, and stands before a historic duty, which cannot endure further delay, and before a practical duty to salvage the chances for peace, which is urgent and cannot be postponed,” he says.
“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” he says, before ending his speech to applause.
Israeli envoy Ron Prosor now takes the floor. “I stand before you tall and proud because I represent the world’s one and only Jewish State…. we are a nation with deep roots in the past and hopes for the future.”
He adds that Israel will always extend its hand for peace.
“Peace fills our art and poetry. It is taught in our schools and has been the goal of every Israeli leader since Israel was established 64 years ago.”
Prosor makes reference to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel 35 years ago.
“Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state, but for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all,” he says. “None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it. The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties and not through U.N. resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.”
“I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today: No decision by the U.N. can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel,” Prosor says, earning a modest round of clapping.
“Israel has always extended its hand for peace and will always extend its hand for peace. When we faced an Arab leader who wanted peace, we made peace. That was the case with Egypt. That was the case with Jordan,” Prosor says.
“Time and again, we have sought peace with the Palestinians. Time and again, we have been met by rejection of our offers, denial of our rights, and terrorism targeting our citizens. President Abbas described today’s proceedings as historic. But the only thing historic about his speech is how much it ignored history,” Prosor says, before launching into a history lesson on Israel’s rocky relations with its Arab neighbors.
Prosor also makes reference to the recent fighting with Hamas, which ended just a week ago.
“The truth is that to advance peace, in 2005 Israel dismantled entire communities and uprooted thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip,” he says. “And rather than use this opportunity to build a peaceful future, the Palestinians turned Gaza into an Iranian terror base, from which thousands of rockets were fired into Israeli cities.
“As we were reminded just last week, the area has been turned into a launching pad for rockets into Israeli cities, a haven for global terrorists, and an ammunition dump for Iranian weapons.Time after time, the Palestinian leadership refused to accept responsibility. They refused to make the tough decisions for peace. Israel remains committed to peace, but we will not establish another Iranian terror base in the heart of our country.”
Prosor makes a plea for Israel’s security, and then accuses Abbas of not supporting a solution of “two states for two peoples.”
“President Abbas, I did not hear you use the phrase ‘two states for two peoples’ this afternoon. In fact, I have never heard you say the phrase ‘two states for two peoples.’ Because the Palestinian leadership has never recognized that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people,” he says.
“They have never been willing to accept what this very body recognized 65 years ago: Israel is the Jewish state. In fact, today you asked the world to recognize a Palestinian state, but you still refuse to recognize the Jewish state.”
Prosor talks about King David and the Jewish connection to the land, accusing Abbas of denying that connection.
“President Abbas, instead of revising history, it is time that you started making history by making peace with Israel,” he says.
Prosor also says the Palestinians are not ready for a state, citing Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip.
“This resolution will not advance peace,” he says. “This resolution will not change the situation on the ground. It will not change the fact that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza. That is forty percent of the territory he claims to represent. President Abbas, you can’t even visit nearly half the territory of the state you claim to represent. That territory is controlled by Hamas…This resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority, which clearly fails to meet the criteria for statehood.”
Prosor tells the assembly that the statehood bid won’t help the Palestinians come to an agreement with Israel, saying Palestinians will “continue to harden their positions and place further obstacles and preconditions to negotiations and peace.”
“Unfortunately, it will raise expectations that cannot be met, which has always proven to be a recipe for conflict and instability,” he says. “There is only one route to Palestinian statehood. And that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions. As President Obama, said in 2010, ‘Peace cannot be imposed from the outside.’”
Prosor also brings up the partition plan, mentioning that the Arabs rejected the deal to carve up Palestine.
“65 years ago the Palestinians could have chosen to live side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel. 65 years ago they could have chosen to accept the solution of two states for two peoples. They rejected it then, and they are rejecting it again today,” he says. “The international community should not encourage this rejection. It should not encourage the Palestinian leadership to drive forward recklessly with both feet pressing down on the gas, no hands on the wheel, and no eyes on the road. Instead it should encourage the Palestinians to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions in order to achieve an historic peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.”
“The truth is that Israel wants peace, and the Palestinians are avoiding peace,” Prosor says finishing his speech. “Those who are supporting the resolution today are not advancing peace. They are undermining peace. The UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.”
Prosor gets a more modest round of applause.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa takes the floor and says his country hopes Palestine’s application will be accepted.
“We believe an independent state of Palestine with equal rights… will contribute to a just lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”
He adds that the recent Gaza violence bears testament to the need for a settlement.
“We are signaling the primacy of diplomacy and the rejection of violence,” he says. “We are beginning to address a festering human injustice.”
Canada’s foreign minister says his country does not support the measure.
“We understand a final resolution remains elusive. Canada has long opposed unilateral issues by either side as unhelpful,” he says.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office releases a statement in response to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s UN speech, saying that the world just witnessed a “hate speech dripping with venom, full with false propaganda against the IDF and the people of Israel. A person who wants peace doesn’t speak like that.”
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird adds that “the people of the region have suffered for seven decades” because of the Arabs’ refusal to accept the partition plan. He calls for Israel and Palestinians to work together to find a peaceful solution.
Baird gives a long history of the various UN resolutions and peace initiatives that dealt with the issue from 1948 to the present, seemingly trying to build a case against the Palestinians’ unilateral effort to gain statehood.
The dry speech is a sea change from the fiery rhetoric used by Abbas and Prosor, and even Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia, just minutes before.
Baird says the move will do nothing to advance peace for both sides, which Canada supports.
“We cannot support an initiative that we are firmly convinced will undermine … a just settlement for both sides,” Baird says.
He adds that Canada will be considering “next steps” in the wake of the “regrettable” move.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu uses a Turkish saying to describe the world “shutting its eyes to the Palestinian people.”
“No resolution that this august body accepted for the Palestinian people has been honored,” he says, describing harsh conditions he says Palestinians live under.
“In Shifa Hospital in Gaza I came across a father who lost his daughter during the bombardment which left his wife wounded,” he says, referring to a trip earlier this month. ”Leaning his head on my chest to seek relief he had no words but only tears to reflect his tragedy.”
Davutoglu says the resolution is another chance for the UN to honor its “obligation to the Palestinians.”
He says Palestinians need dignity to live.
“We cannot shy away from a fully legitimate demand from the Palestinian people to have a state of their own,” he says. “The Palestinian flag should rise by this building,” he adds to a large round of applause.
Davutoglu says Palestine will soon be a full member of the United Nations, getting another round of applause.
He says Palestinians have been abused since World War I and that the status quo is “neither sustainable or acceptable.”
Davutoglu calls for “wisdom, prudence and vision” among UN members ahead of the vote.
He directly attacks the US and Israel’s attempts to dissuade Abbas from bringing forward the resolution, calling the opposition “superficial.”
He also borrows a line from one of Judaism’s greatest sages, Hillel, saying: “If not now when? When will be the right time for the Palestinians to achieve statehood, if not today?”
Davutoglu has received more rounds of applause than Abbas.
He says he will stand by the Palestinians until they get what they deserve.
Davutoglu calls the move a first step, and says “now is the moment of truth.”
The State of Palestine must be “given its rightful place in the sun,” he concludes to another round of applause.
The president of the assembly is calling on the assembly to vote on the resolution. Another official, given the floor says a number of countries have joined as co-sponsers of the resolution, listing some 10 countries.
The speaker calls for the vote and the hall’s electronic board lights up in almost all green — showing “yes” votes to make Palestine a nonmember observer state.
Abbas has his poker face on as the assembly erupts into applause.
The final tally: 138 vote in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.
Abbas breaks into a large grin as people surround him to offer congratulations.
UN head Ban Ki-moon takes the floor and calls on the assembly to continue pushing the sides to a “just and lasting peace.”
“Palestinians have a right to their own state, and Israel has a right to live in peace with its neighbors,” he says.
Benjamin Netanyahu calls UN ambassador Prosor, congratulating him for his speech at the General Assembly: “I am proud of you. You spoke the truth about the state of Israel. This was a speech of facts, as opposed to Abbas’s defamatory and venomous speech.”
Susan Rice, the United States envoy to the UN, is speaking now to explain her country’s “no” vote. She says only direct talks will produce the desired result of two states for two peoples.
“That remains our goal and we therefore measure any measure against that yardstick,” she says. “Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path for peace, that is why the Untied States voted against it.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the Palestinian push for recognition by the United Nations is a bad move. But he also downplays it, calling it a symbolic act that will have no major impact on any aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
The more important issue, he says, is opening direct peace negotiations.
Rice says the US will continue to work against similar unilateral measures, and will fight any efforts to delegitimize Israel or harm its security.
She adds that passing a resolution does not a create a state where one does not exist, and says Palestine is not a state and should not have its status upgraded in other ways.
“Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and Israelis who must … find a way to live side by side in the land they share,” Rice says, finishing her speech.
Ramallah breaks out in celebration at news of the vote. A screen set up at a central square is surrounded by large throngs of people cheering, dancing and waving flags.
The jubilation marked a change from the atmosphere earlier in the day, when Times of Israel correspondent Elhanan Miller reported subdued celebrations in Ramallah ahead of the vote.
Many pundits believe the upgraded status is largely symbolic but is also an important boost for Abbas, who lost popularity in the Palestinian street following Hamas’s eight-day conflict with Israel this month.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, delivering an address in Washington, opened by slamming what she described as a counterproductive General Assembly vote.
Shortly after the UN vote, a Palestinian flag was unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation.
British UN envoy Lyall Grant, explaining London’s abstention, says that it could not vote in favor without knowing that the move would lead to peace talks.
“We sought assurances from Abbas that he would return to peace talks immediately and would not seek to work against Israel in UN forums, but failed to get such assurances,” he says.
The National Jewish Democratic Council releases a statement saying it is “concerned” by the granting of statehood to the Palestinians.
“While the result of today’s vote proved inevitable, tremendous credit is due to the Obama Administration for making a clear case against the resolution and reiterating that the path to peace runs through direct negotiations,” NJDC chair Marc R. Stanley said.
The group also says the US’s firm opposition to the bid is proof of President Barack Obama’s commitment to Israel.
“Those who cried ‘wolf’ about an alleged radical change in the US-Israel relationship during President Obama’s second term need to do some serious reflecting on the events of November 2012 and give the reelected pro-Israel President of the United States the thanks and respect that he is due,” Stanley said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman says “Abbas’s speech proves once more, for anyone who needed more proof, that we are dealing with an enemy who has no desire or intention to make peace. His venomous speech was the best explanation for why as long as Abbas leads the Palestinian people , not only will he not deliver progress to his people, but he will continue to use them to advance his personal goals, cause them suffering and repel any peaceful resolution.”
Unsurprisingly, AIPAC has also come out against the vote, saying it amount to posturing by Abbas.
“The United Nations General Assembly recklessly set back the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians today when it granted non-member observer state status to the Palestine Liberation Organization. In requesting this action, PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas is effectively turning his back on talks with Israel and destroying his credibility as someone genuinely interested in a serious peace process,” the pro-Israel lobbying group says in a statement.
AIPAC also calls on Congress to reassess its relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and consider closing their office in Washington.
Members of Congress have threatened to cut off funding for the Palestinians as a punitive measure against the statehood move.
Former US president Jimmy Carter says “The international community now has a duty to turn this significant step by the UN into lasting peace in the Middle East. It should encourage Fatah and Hamas to reconcile their differences and work together for Palestinian unity. World powers and concerned regional states should not overlook the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to other tensions in the world. The UN vote can be a catalyst for genuine negotiations between Israel and Palestine on a more equal footing.”
The no votes, as expected, were the Israel, the US, Panama, Palau, Canada, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Czech Republic, Micronesia.
If you’re wondering why some South Pacific nations were so friendly to Israel, it all has to do with the dollars. Nauru, for instance, makes few bones about its willingness to sell its vote to the highest bidder.
The destitute island nations engage in what is known as check-book diplomacy, selling their vote, which counts as much as China’s or the US’s in the UN General Assembly, for outright cash or trade deals.
In 2008, Nauru received $10 million from Russia in exchange for voting in favor of the breakaway nation of Abkhazia.
The 41 abstentions were Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Korea, Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, UK, Vanuatu, according to the Guardian.
The list, not surprisingly, is also heavy on South Pacific island countries.
UN envoys are still speaking one by one, explaining why they voted the way they did.
Much like the vote, which saw 139 nations vote for Palestinian observer state status, nine against and 41 abstentions, reactions include few surprises, skewing closely along known ideological lines, with pretty much every country calling for a two-state solution that gives both sides peace and security.
We thank you for following this liveblog and ask that you keep checking back at The Times of Israel for all the latest developments.