Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, right, greets Italy’s premiere Mario Monti during this year’s UN General Assembly. An unprecedented financial crisis because of unpaid funds from foreign donors may prevent Mr Abbas from seeking full UN recognition for a Palestinian state.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, right, greets Italy’s premiere Mario Monti during this year’s UN General Assembly. An unprecedented financial crisis because of unpaid funds from foreign donors may prevent Mr Abbas from seeking full UN recognition for a Palestinian state.

Abbas set to renew bid to upgrade Palestine's UN status

Mr Abbas is expected to ask for a limited upgrade to the Palestinians' status from an organisational member to Vatican-like "non-member" status.

RAMALLAH // When Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN General Assembly today, those in attendance could be forgiven if they experience a sense of déjà vu.

During his speech at last year's annual gathering of the world body, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president announced his intention to seek recognition for a Palestinian state amid great fanfare and popular support back home. Today, he is expected to make a similar request.

Only this time, the distinguished guests will notice the Palestinian leader doing so under less enthusiastic circumstances.

"It's not going to be a transformative moment," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's Executive Committee.

"It will not end the [Israeli] occupation or give us an independent state instantly, but it will create a new dynamic" and have "long-term significance" in promoting Palestinian self-determination.

Because of financial and diplomatic pressure applied by the United States and Israel, last year's bid for UN recognition flopped. The measure failed to win enough support in the UN Security Council to come to a vote, which dashed Palestinian hopes for achieving full membership in the world body.

Mr Abbas is expected to ask for a limited upgrade to the Palestinians' status from an organisational member to Vatican-like "non-member" status. That would require a vote in the 193-member assembly, which the Palestinians are all but assured to win if they put the measure forward for a vote.

This would grant them access to a number of international institutions, including the International Criminal Court, where Ramallah could initiate war crimes proceedings against Israel over its 45-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.

But Mr Abbas travels to New York with none of the parades, media promotion or the Palestinian cities draped in banners of support for the UN effort that buoyed his journey there last year.

"Last year was a lost opportunity," said Mustafa Barghouti, a former Palestinian presidential candidate who lives in Ramallah.

It was lost in part because of pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv, both of which oppose the statehood bid because they say the only way to settle the Israel-Palestinian conflict is by negotiations.

Mr Abbas, who has refused peace talks with Israel because of its refusal to stop building settlements, is believed to have delayed pursuing statehood in the General Assembly for fear of angering the administration of Barack Obama, the US president.

Further pressure from abroad becomes acutely more painful now that the PA is struggling with an unprecedented financial crisis because of unpaid funds from foreign donors. Those donations comprise the bulk of its US$4billion (Dh14.6) budget, the rest come from taxes and municpal fees.

"The PA cannot afford another fight with their donors,'' said Hussein Ibish, senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, a non-governmental organisation based in Washington, DC.

''It is still unclear when Mr Abbas will attempt the UN vote but in deference to the US, most believe it will not happen until after the American presidential election on November 6.

For many Palestinians, however, the issue has become a sideshow to their struggles under Israeli occupation.

"There was some hope for the UN thing last year, but now people aren't paying any attention because they have bigger issues to deal with," said Jamal Juma'a, coordinator at Stop the Wall Campaign, an activist group opposed to Israel separation barrier.

hnaylor@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Bloomberg News

twitterFollow The National on @TheNationalUAE & Hugh Naylor on @HughNaylor

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 A view of a defaced portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korean rally on the 102nd birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung in central Seoul. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Best photography from around the world, April 15

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National