Palestinians resist efforts to alter UN statehood bid
Foreign minister open to talks but will press ahead
JERUSALEM - Senior US and European diplomats tried without success yesterday to persuade the Palestinian leaders to skip or modify their planned UN membership bid, officials involved said.
Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, told foreign journalists in Ramallah that the Palestinians would continue to listen to suggestions but that barring something very persuasive, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority would submit a full membership application to the Security Council by the end of next week.
Another Palestinian official said Abbas told Dennis B. Ross, a top US diplomat: “We appreciate the American role but you are too late. We have reached the moment of truth, and we are going to the Security Council.’’
The United States has said it would use its veto there because it believes that the only way to Palestinian statehood is through direct negotiations with Israel.
“There was one suggestion that Palestine would be given some of the attributes of a state so that it could get funding from the World Bank, for example, but would not now seek membership in the UN,’’ the Palestinian official said, speaking anonymously in accordance with diplomatic protocol. “Another was for a resumption of negotiations based on the 1967 lines, but it didn’t include an Israeli settlement freeze. We rejected both ideas.’’
There is still some discussion, however, of skipping the Security Council and going directly to the General Assembly, where there is no veto and where a majority is guaranteed. In that case, the Palestinians would be granted the status of a nonmember state while sparing the United States the damage to its standing in the Arab world that it would suffer from using its Security Council veto.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday in San Francisco that the administration remained “absolutely committed’’ to finding a compromise to avert a confrontation at the United Nations based on a resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians along the lines outlined by President Obama in May.
Several European countries have been working with the Palestinians on a resolution for the General Assembly. The wording would try to limit the immediate impact of a Palestinian state. Another suggestion is for the General Assembly to endorse the idea of a state without granting it any changed status.
The public Palestinian position is to reject this and insist on going to the Security Council. Some diplomats here believe that position is posturing and could shift by the end of next week. Others say the Palestinians mean what they say.
One reason for the Palestinians to go to the General Assembly is that in the Security Council the United States could not only veto but also delay the proceedings. Once the request is submitted, a committee of all member states is formed and the US delegate could ask for weeks of study.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said he would address the General Assembly next Friday, the same day that Abbas is expected to make his application.