Thursday Sept. 29, 2011 10:35 AM (EST+7)
ANALYSIS: Statehood bid up in air as leaders return home
By EVAN BARTON
Read more: Palestine, statehood, Mahmoud Abbas, United Nations, Security Council, West Bank, Gaza Strip, General Assembly, International Criminal Court, Hanan Ashrawi, Palestine Liberation Organization, international law, war crimes, Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu
RAMALLAH, September 29 (JMCC) - The future of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ application for full United Nations membership last Friday remains unclear.
On Wednesday, the Security Council sent the application to an admissions committee. That group, made up of all 15 members in the top U.N. body, could vote on Friday to study the proposal or send it straight for a vote. Rules allow a study period of 35 days, but diplomats say that this could be extended, even indefinitely.
With the United States vowing to veto any resolution recognizing Palestine as a member state, however, a wide vista of options remains available to Palestinian officials in the coming weeks and months.
Nine countries on the Security Council have recognized Palestine as a state. Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki was reported saying Thursday that eight countries have promised to vote for the UN statehood resolution. Palestinians need the support of nine countries to bring the measure to a vote.
The presidents of Gabon and Bosnia-Herzegovina said they support a Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel, though they have not yet specified publicly whether they will vote in favor of making Palestine a member state.
“I think the U.S. is using its influence to keep other members of the Security Council from voting,” said Muqimar Abu Sada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in the Gaza Strip.
He said that while it may be unlikely that Palestinians will receive full U.N. membership in the coming weeks, they will continue to push for statehood.
PLO spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi told blogger Sam Husseini that the Palestinian leadership would consider other options, including approaching the General Assembly, if the United States vetoes the statehood effort in the Security Council.
More than two-thirds of the General Assembly have recognized Palestine as a state, and the PLO is confident in a successful bid in that forum.
Recognition by the General Assembly, however, would still fall short of full membership in the world body.
In fact, Abu Sada said that many Palestinian factions object to seeking observer statehood status. Observer statehood status would lead to few additional benefits for Palestinians, he said. Access to the International Criminal Court, for example, would be ineffective if Security Council members veto tribunal rulings.
Both Israel and the United States have “unsigned” the Rome Statute binding them to comply with ICC rulings.
Palestinian spokespeople have suggested that they would prefer to keep trying at the Security Council until the initiative is accepted.
Meanwhile, the Quartet has called for a resumption in negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, making no reference to conditions set by both sides. The most recent talks in the fall of 2010 collapsed when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend a moratorium on settlement construction.
Abbas has said that he is unwilling to enter the negotiations process without a commitment to ending settlement expansion. The PLO is expected to accept the Quartet initiative if Israel agrees to a settlement freeze, reports al-Quds newspaper.
Israel’s cabinet, on the other hand, was unable to come to agreement on the initiative, says Haaretz, despite Netanyahu’s positive initial reaction.
Abu Sada thinks it is unlikely that the negotiations process will restart before the results of the Security Council bid. He thinks that Abbas‘ policy will instead focus on isolating Israel on the international stage.