x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Abbas pledges to ask Security Council for Palestinian statehood

Hamas said Mahmoud Abbas's plan was a perilous political move.

Palestinians watch Mahmoud Abbas give a speech saying he will ask the UN for Palestinian statehood recognition.
Palestinians watch Mahmoud Abbas give a speech saying he will ask the UN for Palestinian statehood recognition.

JERUSALEM // The Palestinian Authority president yesterday announced plans to ask the UN to recognise Palestine as a full member state, setting the stage for a diplomatic showdown with the US.

In a televised address from Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas told Palestinian diplomats and dignitaries that "we are going to the Security Council," - with his listeners interrupting the announcement with a standing ovation.

He is expected to submit his proposal on Friday after speaking to the UN General Assembly. He said it was the Palestinians' "legitimate right to demand the full membership of the state of Palestine in the UN to put an end to a historical injustice by attaining liberty and independence ... in a Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967".

That reference seems aimed to assuage the US president, Barack Obama, who called in May for Israel-Palestinian negotiations to be based on the boundaries that existed before the Arab-Israeli war.

But Mr Obama has already promised to veto any bid for statehood when it reaches the 15-member Security Council.

The US president plans to meet the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in New York next week, the White House said.

Mr Netanyahu's office responded to Mr Abbas's speech by saying that peace "is not achieved by a unilateral approach to the UN". Hamas, which controls Gaza, said Mr Abbas's plan was a perilous political move. The decision "to go to the UN without consulting with Palestinian factions about the negative and positive effect of such a move and with only partial Arab, Islamic and international support is something very risky," the Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, told the Associated Press.

US and European diplomats were dispatched to the region this week to talk Mr Abbas down from his UN plan by proposing alternatives.

While failing to convince him, the president struck a conciliatory tone in his address and said a return to peace talks would be a priority following the UN vote.

"We will come back and restart negotiations on the other issues," he said, adding that the Palestinians "are not trying to isolate Israel or take away its legitimacy. We aim to isolate the policies of Israel, to take away the legitimacy of the occupation" of Palestinian land.

Israeli leaders fear the Palestinians could bring legal and economic sanctions against them should they receive an elevated status.

Mr Netanyahu is expected to address a General Assembly session on Friday and oppose the plan.

Israel's military has also made preparations for Palestinian violence, mobilising three battalions of 1,500 troops.

Mr Abbas raised concern about violence during his address, warning that "anything other than peaceful moves will harm us".