Palestine ponders next statehood steps


Members of the United Nations Security Council meet in September 2011. Chaired by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, the global body met to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian bid for statehood.


Spencer Platt

JERUSALEM — The road to Palestinian statehood has hit another bump.

The Palestinian Authority's bid for recognition as a full member state of the United Nations is mired in bureaucratic limbo, following the Palestinian delegation's decision not to call for a Security Council vote on Friday. Palestine decided not to go for the vote after learning that it had failed to secure the nine votes necessary to pass the 15 member panel.

The Palestinians are said to be undecided about how to move forward — whether they will pursue the bid again at the Security Council or whether they will approach the UN General Assembly, where acceptance is virtually assured along with the ire of the United States and Europe.

The US and Europe have been trying to persuade the Palestinians to pursue statehood through negotiations with Israel rather than through acceptance at international organizations.

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For now, says Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, the Portuguese ambassador to the UN and current Security Council president, they will examine the report and discuss possible future actions.

Among the Palestinians, few are willing to call the initiative a failure.

Riyad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said in an interview with the Voice of Palestine that efforts will continue "even for the 1,000th time."

"Our goal is to get full membership. We always knew that one round would not be enough to get full membership,” he said.

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Another option Malki allows for is the possibility that the Palestinian leadership will agree to become an non-member observer state of the UN, an intermediate status like that of the Vatican.

Among open critics of the UN strategy for statehood recognition, an outspoken opponent, Asem Khalil, a professor of Constitutional Law at Bir Zeit University and director of the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, says that “the weight we give to going to the UN is extremely exaggerated.”

Khalil posits that the approach to the UN “was from the beginning directed more at the local population than at the possibility of a real UN result. In a moment in which so many Arab countries are living through a revolution, in the Palestinian Authority there is division, there are no negotiations, and there is no real possibility to think about the future.

“I can’t say for sure, but I have a lot of suspicion about how the president's office has used this UN gambit principally for the purpose of boosting support for the president himself.”

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the UN predicament from Tunis, where he is on a state visit, saying:

"We are determined to get full membership for Palestine at the UN," Ma'an quoted Abbas as saying at a press conference in Tunis.