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PA readies to issue ‘State of Palestine’ passports

Abbas’s office announces directive ahead of bid to reintroduce UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements

A Palestinian man at the Rafah border crossing holds his Palestinian Authority issued passport  on June 12, 2015. (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90)
A Palestinian man at the Rafah border crossing holds his Palestinian Authority issued passport on June 12, 2015. (Aaed Tayeh/Flash90)

The office of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly informed Israel it intends to begin issuing “State of Palestine” passports to West Bank residents.

According to a senior PA official, the directive to change the official travel documents, which currently only feature the PA emblem, was announced without Israel’s approval, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.

Abbas announced the new passports during an official visit to Greece in December, saying his offices would “no longer accept from anybody to use the name Palestinian Authority.”

Wednesday’s report comes of a planned Palestinian bid later this month to reintroduce a version of the United Nations Security Council resolution the US vetoed back in 2011 seeking “accountability” for Israeli West Bank settlement building.

A leaked draft of the proposed resolution expresses “grave concern” over dwindling prospects of a two-state solution and calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.”

The draft further urges the “intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay, an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967.”

US President Barack Obama right) greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during their bilateral meeting at UN headquarters, September 24, 2013. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama (right) greets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during their bilateral meeting at UN headquarters, September 24, 2013. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Earlier this week, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Palestinians were hoping that US President Barack Obama, freed of reelection concerns, would break with American protocol and refrain from vetoing it this time around.

The Palestinians have long sought to press their case in the United Nations, where they enjoy widespread support. In 2012, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly accepted the Palestinians as a non-member state, giving them upgraded status that, among other things, has allowed them to push for war crimes charges against Israel.

While a Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement enterprise is unlikely to change anything on the ground, it would create a new legal framework for future negotiations, and would add even more pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Netanyahu has criticized Abbas’s planned turn to the UN as an effort to push away bilateral peace prospects.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down some two years ago, and the Palestinians have struggled to attract international attention as the world focuses on the Syrian civil war, the migrant crisis in Europe and the US election. Recent months have also seen an upsurge in Palestinian terrorism and violence in a so-called “lone wolf intifada.”

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but nearly 600,000 Israelis live over the pre-1967 lines in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Palestinians claim all three areas for a future state, a position that has wide global support. Similarly, the international community widely sees Israeli settlements as illegal or illegitimate, and a major obstacle to peace.

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