Official: Britain Has 'Responsibility' for PA

Britain has a "historic responsibility" to support the PA's unilateral statehood bid, says the PA's envoy to Europe.

Elad Benari,

British PM David Cameron
British PM David Cameron

Britain has a "historic responsibility" to support the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations, a senior PA official told The Daily Telegraph on Sunday.

The UK, like other main European nations, including Germany and Spain, has not yet decided whether to vote yes, no or to abstain in the vote. Britain would prefer the PA to drop the bid. Last week, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to back off from his plans to ask for UN recognition.

"While there is any chance of achieving a return to talks in the coming months, we continue to advise President Abbas against attempts to win Palestinian observer state status,” Hague said.

"We judge that this would make it harder to secure a return to negotiations, and could have very serious consequences for the Palestinian Authority," he told the British parliament.

However, according to the PA’s delegate in Europe, Leila Shahid, "After everything that has happened in the Arab Spring, Britain can't pretend it is in favor of democracy in Libya, Syria and Egypt but accepts the Palestinians continuing to live under occupation.”

"As the former colonial power, Britain has an historic responsibility to Palestine,” Shahid told The Daily Telegraph. “Britain is a very important country in the Middle East, it has extensive trade relations, and David Cameron should know he risks a popular backlash from Arab public opinion if he does not support us."

The Daily Telegraph reported that the British government is coming under strong pressure to follow the lead of France, which has strongly hinted that it will vote in favor of the application by the Palestinian Authority to become a "non-member state" of the world body.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week that French President Francois Hollande promised during his election campaign to promote the issue of Palestinian statehood.

"I would like to mention that in his election campaign, President Hollande said he would work toward international recognition of a Palestinian state," Fabius told the French senate, though he did not specifically say how France would vote when the PA submits its request this coming Thursday.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Nick Clegg, the Deputy British Prime Minister, is supportive of the PA’s bid, as is Labor leader Ed Miliband. It is understood that Clegg will lobby Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary Hague to vote yes, said the report.

Abbas recently announced that the PA will present its bid for non-state UN membership on November 29. That date was chosen on purpose, as it is the anniversary of the day in 1947 in which the United Nations voted in favor of the partition plan. The resolution recommended the creation of two states, one Arab, one Jewish and granted a small portion of the area, under the British Mandate, to the new Jewish state.

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that he opposes the PA bid and asked Abbas not to go through with it. However, Abbas responded to Obama with a direct “no”.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has told its ambassadors to explain that the PA’s plan to ask for UN recognition is a violation of the Oslo Accords and may cause Israel to officially announce that it is “canceling them partially or completely.” 

The agreement commits the PA to negotiate with Israel for the establishment of an independent PA entity.