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US fights rearguard action as Palestinians push for statehood

The showdown over Palestinian statehood is set to dominate the UN General Assembly. The international majority, including Russia is ready to support the bid. However, the US insist the Palestinian state can only be achieved through talks with Israel.

­President Barack Obama reiterated his support for talks between Israelis and Palestinians as opposed to a UN bid for statehood, citing security concerns for Israel. He has also threatened to use the US power of veto in the Security Council to prevent membership from going through. 

Ramzy Baroud, the editor of the online Middle East newspaper the Palestine Chronicle believes the Palestinians are the ones who should be more concerned about security.

“There has not been really any suicide bombing in Israel for years and years. The latest terror attack happened supposedly from Egypt,” he told RT. “What’s been going on is the rocket fires that killed about five or six Israelis in the last ten years, when on the other hand you’ve had  thousands of Palestinians being killed and wounded as a result of Israeli attacks on Gaza and elsewhere in the West Bank. So if anybody’s security should be honored here, it is the security of the Palestinians, the occupied, the oppressed party; not too much emphasis on the security of Israelis as if Palestinians do not exist in that process.”

­Journalist and author Afshin Rattansi says that if the US uses its veto, the consequences for the country will be “dreadful”.

“Obama has disgraced himself at the UN by saying that peace does not come through things at the UN, through resolutions at the UN,” Afshin Rattansi told RT. “Probably not for America. Usually it is war that comes through resolutions that the US proposes at the UN,” he said. “It [the US] will be hated right across the Arab world, and I hope that the American government realizes what the consequences for the US personnel, the US people all around will be for what they are doing right now regardless of whether Abbas faults or not.”

­But as RT’s Marina Portnaya reports from New York, despite tremendous pressure coming from the US, at this point Palestinians show no sign of backing down from their campaign for UN membership.

Palestinian journalist Elias Zananiri is convinced his country’s sovereignty does not pose any danger to Israel.

“It is the best of Israel’s strategic interests to have a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel based on 1967 borders,” he told RT. “This is the only way to guarantee Israeli security and peace. Otherwise the conflict is going to go on and on and on and nobody knows what will happen in the days after President Abbas disappears from the political arena”.

“He [Abbas] has been very cautious in terms of calling on the Palestinians to commit themselves only to non-violent tactics of resistance to the Israelis. What will happen afterwards?” he went on. “If the moderates among the Palestinians and also in the Arab world find out that this track of moderation – vis-à-vis negotiations with Israel – is yielding nothing, there will be room for hardliners to take over and that would be a very dire price for all of us Palestinians and Israelis to pay and I hope it won’t be the case.”

­Joel Rubin, director of policy and government affairs at Ploughshares fund gives another reason why the US is pushing for talks as opposed to a Palestinian bid for sovereignty. He believes the US recognizes there is overwhelming global support for the Palestinian bid, and America is trying to find any way possible to save face and avoid highlighting its own isolation.

“They do know that they will be embarrassed at the UN if the vote goes forward,” he told RT. “They are trying desperately to get the Palestinians to not ask for a vote. Perhaps President Abbas will submit a petition, but it won’t actually go towards the vote, trying to find some face-saving way forward so they can move towards negotiations; because, yes, it will be very embarrassing for the US to be in such a small minority after that type of vote.”

Meanwhile, a lot of diplomatic effort is taking place on the sidelines of the General Assembly. President Obama has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The US leader is set to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later on Wednesday for talks. This is seen as a clear effort from the US to make the Palestinians back down or stall their campaign for statehood.

Speaking shortly after the US leader spoke, President Sarkozy of France proposed a one-year timetable for Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace accord. According to the Associated Press the move is seen as part of a concerted push with the United States to steer the Palestinians away from an application for UN membership.

Ramzy Baroud believes there is no chance the Palestinians will agree to President Sarkozy's peace timeline.

“I think what Sarkozy is trying to do here is to present himself as someone who is standing at an equal distance between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he told RT. “This is really an old trick and the Europeans have done it for many years, and it did not lead to anything. It did not yield to the Palestinians even one inch of historic Palestine or the newly occupied territories. So really going down that road is not going to get them anything back.”