x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Palestinians step up bid for statehood with ad campaign

An advertising campaign has been launched by the Palestinian Authority to support its bid for recognition at the United Nations later this month, despite warnings by the US to refrain from pursuing the move.

Activist hold banners promoting the Palestinian bid for a state of Palestine as the 194th member of the United Nations in front of the UN headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday. Majdi Mohammed / AP Photo
Activist hold banners promoting the Palestinian bid for a state of Palestine as the 194th member of the United Nations in front of the UN headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday. Majdi Mohammed / AP Photo

JERUSALEM // Palestinian officials formally launched an advertising campaign yesterday to support their bid for recognition at the United Nations this month, despite warnings by the US to refrain from pursuing the move.

Dozens of officials gathered for a ceremony in central Ramallah, the de facto West Bank capital, to unveil their Palestine 194 campaign. The marketing push, consisting of radio advertisements and planned non-violent rallies worldwide, including in Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, aims to build support for a resolution at the world body to recognise Palestine as a state.

"Today we began our campaign on the ground and we chose the UN building because it represents the United Nations and we expect them to respond to our demands," the campaign coordinator Ahmed Assaf told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

"We are no less important than the other 193 states in the United Nations, and our message asks for our state to be 194."

Those in attendance also signed a letter addressed to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, announcing their intention to follow through with the plan and deliver it before the UN General Assembly convenes on September 21.

The letter was handed over to Pascal Soto, the head of the UN office in Ramallah, by Latifa Abu Hamid, a 60-year-old mother from the Amari refugee camp whose seven sons have all spent time in Israeli jails. Her eighth son was shot dead by Israeli troops, AFP reported.

"Families of the tens of thousands of victims of Israeli occupation, including those martyred, wounded and jailed, and countless others who were expelled from their homes or lost their homes and their property, hope that you will exert all possible efforts toward the achievement of the Palestinian people's just demands," the letter says.

It requests Mr Ban to voice "support of the Palestinian people".

A resolution recognising a Palestinian state is widely expected to pass a vote in the General Assembly, where Palestinians say the measure would need at least a simple majority of support.

In the Security Council, however, where full statehood recognition requires passage, the United States is expected to veto the measure.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a US Republican congresswoman and a staunch supporter of Israel, on Wednesday criticised the US president, Barack Obama, for his handling of the recognition plan and implored him to clearly warn Palestinians of a US veto in the council.

"I think President Obama should have come out clearly and said we will veto this," said Mrs Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House foreign affairs committee.

She introduced legislation last week warning of US financial sanctions against any UN organisation that embraced an elevated Palestinian status.

General Assembly support would elevate the Palestinians from entity status to a non-voting state member, which would grant them access to a variety of UN institutions.

Israeli officials worry that this could bolster Palestinian claims against Israel in global forums, such as the International Criminal Court, that could include accusations of Israeli war crimes.

Israel also has made preparations for potential violence during the statehood-bid demonstrations, buying additional crowd-control weapons and further arming Jewish settlers. Palestinians say they have no intention to demonstrate violently.

It is not clear if Palestinian officials intend to bring their resolution before the Security Council, but they nonetheless couched their marketing campaign in language that is likely to anger Mr Obama.

Invoking words the US leader spoke at the UN last year, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, says in one radio advertisement that if "he said it, he must have meant it".

That was a reference to Mr Obama, in an address to the General Assembly, saying that when "we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that can lead to a new member of the United Nations, an independent, sovereign state of Palestine living in peace with Israel".

Those comments were meant to be the result of successful peace talks with Israel, which resumed last September.

But those negotiations lasted a mere three weeks because Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, refused to stop building Jewish settlements.

hnaylor@thenational.ae