Abbas ‘seriously considering’ pushing off UN statehood bid to January

Palestinian sources cite Obama’s victory in the US elections and his need for time to organize a second term agenda

The UN General Assembly (photo credit: CC BY, Flickr)
The UN General Assembly (photo credit: CC BY, Flickr)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is “seriously considering” pushing back a United Nations statehood bid in light of Barack Obama’s victory Tuesday in the US elections, Palestinian sources said Saturday.

The stated reason for a possible postponement, from November to the end of January, is that the reelected American president needs time to organize a political agenda for the second term of his administration.

The Palestinians took the first step toward raising their status at the UN from an observer mission to a nonmember observer state on Thursday by circulating a draft resolution to the 193 UN member states and asking for their support.

The draft also called on the UN Security Council to approve a Palestinian petition for full UN membership, which was submitted in 2011.

But a senior Palestinian official indicated Friday that Abbas may be willing to postpone a move for upgraded UN status if the US were to offer a “clear objective” for negotiations. According to the official, the objective would have to be a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

There are no vetoes in the General Assembly and a resolution submitted by Abbas is almost certain to be approved by the world body, which is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Israel and the United States are on record opposing the move, saying the Palestinians should first negotiate their statehood with the Jewish state, not take unilateral action and sidestep talks.

The upgraded UN status would add weight to Palestinian claims for a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.

The Palestinians also hope to use their upgraded status to join additional UN bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, where they could attempt to prosecute Israel.

At the same time, they have expressed fear of financial and diplomatic retaliation.

Following last year’s move by the Palestinians to join the UN cultural agency UNESCO, the United States withheld funds from the organization, which amount to 22 percent of its budget. The US also withheld money to the Palestinians, and the US Congress has threatened similar sanctions if the Palestinians proceed to improve their status at the UN again.

Israel also retaliated by withholding funds from the Palestinian government.

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