Palestinians expecting U.N. to vote 'yes' on statehood
BY KARIN LAUB & DALIA NAMMARI Associated Press
Thursday, November 29, 2012
11/29/12 at 5:02 AM
The expected United Nations vote Thursday to recognize a state of Palestine will be far more than symbolic - it could give the Palestinians leverage in future border talks with Israel and open the way for possible war crimes charges against the Jewish state.
The Palestinians want the 193-member General Assembly to accept "Palestine," on the lands Israel occupied in 1967, as a nonmember observer state. They anticipate broad support.
For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the U.N. bid is a last-ditch attempt to stay relevant as a leader after years of failed peace talks with Israel, at a time when his Islamic militant Hamas rivals are gaining ground.
The U.S. and Israel have tried to block the quest for U.N. recognition of Palestine, saying it's an attempt to bypass Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that broke down four years ago.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of state William Burns met with Abbas in New York on Wednesday, asking Abbas to drop the idea and promising that President Barack Obama would re-engage as a mediator in 2013, said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat. Abbas told Burns it was too late.
Israel, meanwhile, appeared to back away from threats of drastic measures if the Palestinians get U.N. approval, with officials suggesting the government would take steps only if the Palestinians use their new status to act against Israel.
The Palestinians say they need U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in 1967, to be able to resume talks with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's predecessors accepted the 1967 lines as a basis for border talks, with modifications to be negotiated, including land swaps that would enable Israel to annex some of the largest Jewish settlements. Those talks did not produce a deal. Netanyahu rejects the 1967 lines as starting point while pressing ahead with settlement construction.
Israel argues that Abbas is trying to dictate the outcome of border talks by going to the U.N.
It's not clear if negotiations could resume even if Obama can turn his postelection attention to the Mideast conflict.
The Palestinians expect that at least two-thirds of the 193 member states in the General Assembly will support them on Thursday, including a number of European countries, among them France, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland.
Those opposed or abstaining include the U.S., Israel, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia.
Palestinian schoolgirls hold pictures of President Mahmoud Abbas with the late Yasser Arafat, flowers and olive branches during a rally supporting the Palestinian U.N. bid for observer state status in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday. NASSER ISHTAYEH/Associated Press