(Updates with Toner comments in eighth paragraph, Hamas reaction in final paragraph.)
Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Palestinians “have a legitimate right” to join the United Nations and will go there next week seeking full membership, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said today in a televised address.
Full membership as a nation-state would require approval by the UN Security Council, and the U.S. has said it would veto such a resolution. Obama administration envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross met with Abbas this week in an effort to forge a compromise that would avoid such a confrontation.
“We will come back to discuss the remaining issues, but first we want to obtain full membership at the Security Council,” Abbas said, speaking on Palestinian television from Ramallah. “We are realistic. We do not expect to gain independence right away.”
The Palestinians will present their application for full membership at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York Sept. 23, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said yesterday. Israel also opposes such a move.
“Peace is not achieved in unilateral procedures at the United Nations,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to Abbas’s speech, in a text message sent by his office. “Peace will be achieved only in direct negotiations with Israel.”
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down a year ago after Netanyahu declined to extend a freeze on new construction on West Bank settlements, which Abbas said was a condition for the talks to continue.
The U.S. has been pressing Abbas to drop the resolution in order to focus on ways to resume peace talks with Israel.
“We’re well aware of the Palestinians’ position on this,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said today in Washington. “Our efforts right now remain on getting them back to the negotiating table.
A U.S. veto in the Security Council wouldn’t bar the Palestinians from seeking a vote in the larger General Assembly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status from an “entity” to “non-member state.”
The elevation to non-member state would place the Palestinians in a position similar to that of the Holy See, the government of the Roman Catholic Church, enabling them to sign international treaties. That could include having cases heard in the International Criminal Court. Palestinian officials have said they expect to gain an overwhelming majority of the vote if they go to the General Assembly.
The Palestinian UN initiative is meant to “delegitimize Israel’s policies and occupation,” yet not delegitimize or isolate Israel itself, Abbas said. He said that after getting statehood recognition, the Palestinians would continue to work toward a peace deal.
The militant Islamic Hamas group, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., Israel and the European Union, criticized the UN initiative, saying it is tainted “by suspicions and doubts.”
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and opposes any permanent peace deal with Israel, said in an e-mailed statement the move is an unilateral step that overrides a reconciliation agreement it signed with Abbas’s Fatah faction last May, and is “similar to the previous styles of the so-called peaceful agreements that harmed the interests of the Palestinians.”
--With assistance from Fadwa Hodali in Bethlehem, Saud Abu Ramadan in Gaza and Tamara Walid in Dubai. Editors: Heather Langan, Terry Atlas, Ann Hughey.
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