Israelis who support Palestinian UN Membership

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Today it was full-on diplomacy at the United Nations. American and European officials are feverishly trying to come up with a new Mid East negotiation framework. They're working against a tight deadline. Tomorrow, Palestinian officials plan to present their official request for full UN membership. The United States is planning to veto the move at the security council. Israel is officially against it too. But at least some Israelis are not. This week, a poll shows that 69% of Israelis thought that if the UN were to recognize the Palestinian state Israel should accept the decision. The poll was conducted jointly by Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. The World's Matthew Bell attended a rally today in Tel Aviv in support of the Palestinian president's effort to win membership at the UN. Matthew, who as at this rally and what was the message you were hearing?

Matthew Bell: The rally, Marco, was only about 100 people, but it was an interesting mix of academics and public figures. Generally, these were people who support the two state solution and they've lost faith in both their government for making this happen. There was also a lot of disappointment with Barack Obama's speech yesterday at the United Nations. Marco, one of the people I talked to today was Ilan Baruch, a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa. I asked him if he agreed with experts who say that it's actually too late to realize a two state solution, and he said no, absolutely not.

Ilan Baruch: I think we can walk back and build an architecture of a two state solution in spite of everything that was done to undermine it so far.

Bell: And if the Palestinians do get recognition or membership at the United Nations, you think this will help?

Baruch: I think that the peace cause after that will be in a quality of way different to the stagnation that took its course up to now.

Werman: Ilan Baruch, former Israeli ambassador to South Africa there clearly supporting the Palestinian initiative. He was speaking with The World's Matthew Bell. Matthew, what else were you hearing at the rally today?

Bell: Well, as I said, there was a lot of disappointment with President Obama's speech yesterday. People pointed out that here was the American president who came into office talking about setting a goal of bringing about the two state solution as one of his top priorities, and then yesterday going to the United Nations and essentially saying that the Palestinians should be blocked. Another person that I talked to at the rally was Tal Harris, he's the director of an organization called the One Voice, it's an Israeli advocacy group that sponsored the rally, and they stand to support the two state solution.

Tal Harris: Right now we are calling Israel to use this as an opportunity, engage with the Palestinians, phrase the basis for an agreement that would serve the peace and security of everyone here.

Werman: So, Tal Harris there also in support of the Palestinian effort to get statehood at the UN. Matthew Bell, how widespread is that opinion?

Bell: It's interesting Marco, because over the years there's been very steady large support in the Israeli public for the two state solution, and that is the creation of an independent Palestinian state. That's been steady. On the other hand, in recent years also there's been a lot of skepticism and a huge lack of faith in the Israeli public that the Palestinians are actually ready to create a state that would be willing to live in peace with Israel and to end the long grinding deadly conflict with Israel. So, basically, there's support for it, but then there's a feeling among a large percentage of the population that the Palestinians just aren't ready and now is not the time to do it.

Werman: Matthew, one last question, the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN has been headline news all over the world this week. How big is this story in Israel itself?

Bell: It's been huge. The past weeks and months you had Israeli officials like the defense minister, Ehud Barak, months ago saying that Israel might face a diplomatic tsunami in September. September, just the word itself, has been code in the Israeli media for this big event here of the Palestinians going to the United Nations and looking for membership in the world body. So it has been a big story and one question in recent days has also been what's going to happen after everything gets finished this week at the United Nations, that is what happens after the diplomatic maneuvering is over, especially in the West Bank? There are concerns about violence, there are concerns about the Palestinians expectations being raised to a point where there'll be more frustration than ever. Just yesterday, Marco, there were some incidents of rock throwing. There were some clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli soldiers. So that's been a real concern here too.

Werman: The World's Matthew Bell in Tel Aviv at the sight of a rally held earlier today where Israelis called for recognition of a Palestinian state. Matthew, thanks a lot.

Bell: You're welcome, Marco.