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US Formally Asks PA to Drop Statehood Bid

After months of implicit opposition to the PA statehood bid at the UN on September 20, the US has formally asked the PA to drop the move.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 9/7/2011, 8:43 PM

Dennis Ross
Dennis Ross
Official Photo

Unmoved by sharp criticism and media antics from Palestinian Authority officials the United States on Wednesday formally asked Ramallah to drop its bid for recognition of a PA state based on pre-1967 lines at the United Nations later this month.

The request was relayed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by US envoy David Hale during a meeting in Ramallah, officials in Ramallah said. The meeting was attended by US envoy Dennis Ross and US Consul-General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubenstien.

The officials complained US envoys did not carry any new proposals for reviving the peace process and intimated the PA may go only to the UN General Assembly due to the threat of a US veto in the Security Council.

"We have been advised by some or our European and Arab friends not to go to the Security Council because we don't have a majority in favor of the plan and because of the US threat to use the veto," the official said. "We are now studying submitting a request to the General Assembly to accept the state of Palestine as a full member. This is also an important step because it would give us access to numerous international bodies."

Such a move would be largely symbolic and be aimed at building lawfare and propaganda momentum as UN membership requires Security Council approval.

Hale told Abbas that Washington wants to see the Palestinians return to the negotiating table with Israel, Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Erekat quoted the US envoy as saying that the Quartet members - the US, EU, UN and Russia - were preparing a new initiative for the establishment of a Palestinian state "on the basis of the 1967 borders."

Erekat quoted Abbas as saying during the meeting that the Palestinians would resume the peace talks with Israel only if it halted construction in the settlements and accepted the 1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.

Israel did halt construction for 10-months in order to restart negotiations, during which time the PA abjectly refused to come to the negotiating table while continuing to add new preconditions as a means of avoiding direct talks.

According to Erekat, the PA is only planning to apply to the UN for membership of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

"Contrary to what is being said, we are not asking for independence or recognition of a Palestinian state," Erekat insisted. "It's wrong to say that the Palestinian Authority is asking for independence. The independent state was declared more than 20 years ago. We are only asking that Palestine be admitted as a member of the UN."

Erekat did not explain, if a Palestinian state was declared more than twenty years ago, how it is that the PA was only created in 1993 with the understanding it was empowered to negotiate for the creation of a state that did not yet exist.

Nor did he explain how the PA was not asking for recognition when in recent months "recognition" has been at the heart of Ramallah's lexicon with new press releases issued regularly about states newly recognizing a 'state of Palestine' ahead of the UN bid.

Erekat also dismissed claims that the statehood bid would affect the "right of return" for 'Palestinian' refugees to their original villages inside Israel.

"Going to the UN won't cancel the right of return," he said. "Recognition of a Palestinian state will pave the way for the state to enter international institutions and demand all our legitimate rights, including the right of return."

But legal experts, UN officials, and the Jordanian government have warned that the so-called 'right of return' very well could be undermined by a successful PA bid at the Security Council thereby undercutting one of its central ideological pillars.

And as September 20 approaches Israel's security forces are ramping up for widespread violence expected to erupt in PA administered enclaves after the bid is made - indicating Israel regards the PA bid as anything but a good-faith gesture.

"As regards the Palestinian issue," Israeli vice premier Moshe Yaalon said Wednesday, "no doubt they opted for a unilateral proclamation in order to sidestep negotiations. We are willing to sit down at the table and address not only territorial matters but also the recognition of a Palestinian state. I suggest reading the Arab press which places the September issue front and center."

"The unilateral proclamation poses a serious threat to the Palestinians as the US may cut off its aid and Israel might back out of the Oslo Agreement. It is my opinion that the September threat is an attempt to twist Israel's arm and gain concessions. We must be prepared for any case scenario. A proclamation at the UN does not change the reality – we have to be prepared for any contingency as we did in 2000," he added.