US urges Palestine to postpone UN petition

Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the United Nations General Assembly  (AFP Photo / Stan Honda)
The US is pressuring the Palestinian Authority (PA) to delay its efforts on upgrading its UN membership in September until after the American presidential election, according to a senior Palestinian official.

“There are pressures from the United States and some Arab parties to delay the voting until after the United States presidential elections, due in November,”Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Saleh Raafat told Voice of Palestine radio.

On August 4, the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said that the PA, which currently holds "observer" status at the UN, will ask to be upgraded to "non-member state" at the General Assembly meeting on September 27, at which President Mahmoud Abbas plans an address.

The PA has submitted a formal request to the United Nations in September 2011 to accept Palestine as a member state, a bid that has to be approved by the Security Council. So far, the UN has neither approved nor rejected the Palestinian petition, because it was never put to a vote in the UN Security Council, where Washington had threatened to veto it.

“The Palestinian people have no option but to resort to popular resistance and turn to international agencies, particularly the United Nations Security Council and the UNGA, to apply for non-state membership,” Raafat told the radio station.

The PLO member has also said that Palestine will not bow to the US pressure and called to “reject this demand and insist on heading to the UN in September.”

The Palestinian Authority was created in1993 after the signing of the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. It established a provisional government of the occupied territories in West Bank and Gaza that would someday be replaced by a sovereign Palestinian state after a final settlement was reached with the Jewish state.

No settlement has been reached and, in 2007, the Palestinian Authority lost control of half of its territory after the Fatah party, founded by Yasser Arafat, lost to Hamas in parliamentary elections in 2006. A year later, the militant group Hamas expelled Fatah out of Gaza and set up its own government there.

The schism left the Palestinian Authority in charge of only some portions of the West Bank., with around 60 per cent of the territory under Israeli control. Palestinians and the Israelis claim East Jerusalem, which is now in Tel Aviv’s hands.

Negotiations of the final settlement have been intermittent. In 2008, an agreement was almost signed between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, when Olmert was forced from office.In September 2010, a new round of talks reached a deadlock after Abbas announced he would not negotiate while Israel continued to build on occupied lands.

In 2011, President Abbas has abandoned the possibility of a productive settlement negotiation with Israel and switched his focus to mending the conflict with Hamas and winning United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state.

"Palestine will apply immediately to the UN and the head of the General Assembly will be informed that Palestine wants to obtain non-member status. After that, we will begin communicating with all components of the General Assembly to talk about the appropriate date," Saleh Raafat reiterated in his radio address.