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Abbas Tests Obama: Full-Speed Ahead to UN

Abbas goes for broke, wants UN recognition now. If Obama cannot stop him, US may be badly weakened, leaving Israel out on a limb.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/11/2012, 2:48 PM

Pres. Obama and Chairman Abbas
Pres. Obama and Chairman Abbas
Flash 90

Palestinian Authority PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas used the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death Sunday to adamantly state he will submit a bid to the United Nations General Assembly (GA) this month for Non-Member status, which would lead to more pressure on PA territorial demands.

"We're going to the United Nations in November 2012, not 2013, or 2014," Abbas said at a Ramallah event commemorating the eighth anniversary of the death of Arafat. The bid is a scaled-down version of his ploy last year, when he dropped his bid for full membership in the UN after it became clear that he was one vote short of the needed two-thirds support in the Security Council. 

On paper, Abbas has an overwhelming majority to win the vote in the GA, which, although of no practical value without the Security Council,  would poke holes in the strength of the Obama administration.

President Barack Obama already has stated he is against Abbas’ effort to circumvent negotiations, although the Palestinian Authority chairman claimed in his speech Sunday, “Some powers are trying to tell us that the two-state solution doesn't come from the U.N. but through negotiations. ... Negotiations are crucial. But to get U.N. recognition is also [a] key."

Abbas has never made it clear what would be included in “negotiations,” given his demand that Israel accept all of his demands before sitting down at the table.

Obama will be able to claim that his opposition to the UN bid proves his support for Israel. However, if he fails to convince European Union countries to change their minds and vote against Abbas, possibly encouraging others to do the same, Abbas will have proven that the United States is no longer a power that has to be reckoned with.

Then Obama’s only ammunition would be to cut off all aid to the financially-ailing Palestinian Authority, a move that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has supported. If the Arab world steps into the breach and coughs up long-stalled promised funding for the PA, the threat from the United States would be empty and could show the Obama administration to be weaker than ever.

Winning Non-Member status would allow the PA to be represented in the International Court, where it would likely sue Israel for alleged war crimes.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has said that Jerusalem would cut off the transfer of tax revenue collected for the Palestinian Authority if it goes to the United Nations. The total sum amounts to hundreds of millions a dollars a year, far more than the United States donates to the PA. The financial state of the PA is disastrous, despite the transfer of fund, donations and loans, due to bad management and corruption.

"If the Palestinians continue to advance their unilateral move they should not expect bilateral cooperation. We will not collect their taxes for them and we will not transfer their tax revenues," Steinitz said.