‘‘Nothing will really be gained either by unilateral Palestinian initiatives at the United Nations which aim for recognition nor by Israel’s continued building of settlements,’’ she said.
The vote comes at an important time domestically for Abbas. His Hamas rivals, who control Gaza, have gained popularity after holding their own during an Israeli offensive there earlier this month, aimed at stopping frequent Gaza rocket fire on Israel.
During the Gaza offensive, Abbas was sidelined in his compound in the West Bank, underscoring international concerns that the deadlock in peace efforts is weakening Palestinian pragmatists. Hamas, which seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, argues that negotiations with Israel are a waste of time, but Hamas leaders have come out in support of the U.N. bid in recent days.
Other than creating leverage in negotiations, U.N. recognition would also allow the Palestinians to seek membership in U.N. agencies and international bodies, for example making them eligible for loans from the International Monetary Fund.
Perhaps most significantly, it could open the door to a new attempt to join the International Criminal Court and seek an investigation into alleged war crimes by Israel in the occupied territories.
Abbas’ self-rule government, the Palestinian Authority, unilaterally recognized the court’s jurisdiction in 2009 and pressed prosecutors to open an investigation into Israel’s previous Gaza offensive. Prosecutors noted at the time that the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, is only open to states. Israel has not signed the statute and does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.
Ashrawi on Wednesday avoided explicit threats to take Israel to court, but suggested it’s an option. ‘‘If Israel refrains from settlement activities ... there is no immediate pressing need to go,’’ she said, adding that this could change if ‘‘Israel persists in its violations.’’
Israel would respond ‘‘forcefully’’ if the Palestinians try to pursue war crimes charges against Israel at the ICC, said an Israeli government official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss policy considerations. If the Palestinians use their upgraded international status ‘‘as a tool to confront Israel in the international arena, there will be a response,’’ he said.
Until then, he said, Israel will be bound by its obligations to the Palestinians under existing peace agreements, but won’t necessarily go beyond them. Earlier there was talk of Israel retaliating by canceling partial peace accords dating back to the 1990s.
In the West Bank, the view of Abbas’ quest for recognition was mixed. Many were bitter, saying they've heard too many promises that statehood is near and don’t believe a nod from the U.N. will make a difference.
‘‘Nothing will come of it,’’ said Arwa Abu Helo, a 23-year-old student in Ramallah. ‘‘It’s just a way of misleading the public.’’
Yousef Mohammed, a bank teller, said Abbas was trying to ‘‘gain the spotlight after Hamas said it won in Gaza.’’
Hurriyeh Abdel Karim, 65, said she was willing to give Abbas a chance. ‘‘If he succeeds, maybe our life improves,’’ she said.
Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed.