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09.26.11

U.N. to Vote on Palestine

The Security Council will send the nation’s bid for statehood to the admissions committee Wednesday. The request, however, is expected to fail because of the U.S. veto.

U.N. to Vote on Palestine
Sept. 26, 2011 9 P.M. EDT

After considering the Palestinians’ statehood bid in a meeting on Monday, the U.N. Security Council will meet again on Wednesday morning, when they will send the bid to the admissions committee. According to Security Council President Nawaf Salam of Lebanon, the decision was made as required by Article 59 of the United Nations’ rules of procedure. The bid will most likely fail because of the American veto, which would block the bid for full membership. But the General Assembly could still upgrade the Palestinians from nonvoting observer “entity” to permanent observer “state.” The Palestinian Authority’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour said, "We hope that the Security Council will shoulder its responsibility and address this application with a positive attitude, especially since we have 139 countries that have recognized the state of Palestine so far, meaning more than two-thirds majority," he said. "We are ready to govern ourselves."

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Palestinians celebrate as they watch their President Mahmoud Abbas on TV as he delivers his speech at the United Nations during the General Assembly on September 23, 2011 in Ramallah, West Bank. (Uriel Sinai)

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Abbas Rejects Quartet’s Blueprint
Sept. 24, 2011 8:00 PM EDT

Not so fast. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he is reviewing the Middle East Quartet’s idea for peace talks to start again within a month, but is against any plan that does not require Israel to stop building settlements. He also reiterated what other Palestinian officials said by stating that he expects a decision from the U.N. in two weeks. After Abbas submitted the Palestinian bid for statehood, the Quartet (which is composed of the U.S., the U.N., The European Union, and Russia) suggested that Israel and the Palestinians resume peace talks with the goal of making a deal by the end of 2012. On Saturday, Abbas said, “We will not deal with any initiative which does not contain a halt to settlement or the ’67 borders.”

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Will U.N. Push Lead to Uprising?

As the speeches come to an end, observers are wondering whether the push for U.N. membership will lead to violence in the West Bank and Gaza. Dan Ephron on why peace will likely win out.

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U.S., Europe Press for Middle East Talks
Sept. 24, 2011 8:26 AM EDT

Shortly after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally requested full United Nations membership, international powers unveiled a plan designed to delay the controversial vote and resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The U.S., Russia, and European nations set a timeline for negotiations between the two parties, culminating in a deal at the end of 2012, but the plan was vague and lacked any incentives to push the two parties back to the negotiating table. Earlier, Abbas spoke to thunderous applause before the assembly. “It is a moment of truth, and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world,” said Abbas. To Abbas' claim that Palestinians were armed only with their “hopes and dreams,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back, “Hopes, dreams — and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran.”

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Global Powers Try to Delay Statehood Bid
Sept. 23, 2011 11:07 PM EDT

Led by the U.S. and Europe, international powers attempted Friday to delay the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood by pressing on both Palestine and Israel to pursue peace talks instead. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas formally asked for U.N. recognition at Friday’s General Assembly meeting to thunderous applause. Abbas needs at least nine votes from the Security Council to be successful, but the U.S. has threatened to veto. “It is a moment of truth, and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world,” Abbas said in his speech. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke before the General Assembly Friday, rejecting Abbas’ claim that Israel has blocked the peace process and scolded the U.N. for what he called an unfair fixation on blaming Israel.

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Netanyahu to Abbas: Let's Meet Now
Sept. 23, 2011 3:15 PM EDT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s address to the U.N. General Assembly with an insistence to go back to direct peace talks, rejecting Abbas' bid for statehood through the Security Council. In his speech, Netanyahu that the Palestinians must “first make peace with Israel, then get their state.” He also said that previous Israeli concessions did not “calm the militant Islamic storm that threatens us,” and only brought militants “closer to us. Netanyahu said that once a peace agreement is signed, Israel will be the first country to welcome the Palestinians as a full member of the U.N.

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Abbas Makes Case for Statehood
Sept. 23, 2011 1:00 PM EDT

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was greeted with applause and whistles as he took the stage to deliver his request for United Nations recognition. Abbas condemned Israel's building of settlements, blaming the policy for the failure of the peace process and for the undermining of the Palestinian National Authority, which he said could collapse if the building continues. Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel until construction stops. Before making his case, Abbas sent a letter to U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon asking him to immediately pass his request for U.N. membership to the Security Council and the General Assembly, which will likely be asked to approve a smaller status promotion once Palestine's bid for full membership collapses. The U.S. and Israel have been pressuring Council members to either vote against or abstain from the membership request.

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Ahmadinejad Basks in His Own Glory
Sep 23, 2011 12:00 AM EDT

The show must go on. After delivering a blistering anti-American speech at the United Nations on Thursday afternoon, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad headed to the Warwick Hotel in midtown Manhattan for a roundtable meeting with a small group of journalists. He was in fine form, ducking and jabbing on a number of tough questions and even getting laughs on some of his wry responses. Seated beside the Iranian president was Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, a close adviser sometimes referred to as his Karl Rove.

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Israel-Palestine Showdown at U.N.
Sept. 23, 2011 1:45 AM EDT

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been the focus of discussion during the UN General Assembly this week, but the debate will actually take the main stage tomorrow, when both countries’ leaders address the assembly. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will lead the speeches with an appeal for Palestinian statehood. Just one hour later Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will issue, presumably, his rebuttal to the proposal. Earlier this week, Netanyahu initiated peace negotiations with Abbas, insisting that unilateral measures were not the best method for stabilizing the feuding peoples’ relationship. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated Monday at that the U.S. advocates negotiations between the two in order to facilitate a two-state solution.

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U.S. Boycotts Ahmadinejad Address
Sept. 22, 2011 1:30 PM EDT

As is customary at this point, the delegations of the U.S., France, and other Western nations walked out of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking. The controversial leader provoked their outrage in an address that criticized colonialism, Zionism, slavery, the propping up of Latin dictators, and the economic crisis. Ahmadinejad began his tirades against all these issues with the word “Who …?” The implication was that he was blaming the West.

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Obama Warns Abbas of Veto
Sept. 21, 2011 10:40 PM EDT

Following his U.N. address on Wednesday, President Obama convened with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and warned that the U.S. would veto a bid for Palestinian statehood in the U.N. Security Council. Abbas’s spokesman told Reuters that both leaders reiterated their positions during the meeting, with Abbas vowing to move forward with his bid and Obama promising to shut it down. Earlier in the day, Obama said that Palestine deserved statehood but only through direct negotiations with Israel. “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.,” he told the assembly. “Ultimately, it is the Israelis and Palestinians—not us—who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.” Once the request reaches the Security Council—a body of 15 states that has the sole authority to grant membership—a full review could take weeks or even months.

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Dilma Thumps for Women

In her historic opener to the U.N. assembly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff declared a “century of women” and championed gender equality as the key to prosperity. Mac Margolis on her defiant address.

In a powder-blue, flowered dress, with a tight smile, her voice slightly tremulous at first but warming to the hearty applause—strong enough to make her pause—Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff wrote history this morning when she became the first woman to open the debate at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. With representatives from 191 member states listening, Rousseff, 63, spoke in a cadenced monotone, about this rising Latin American nation but also on the European debt crisis, turmoil in the Arab world, the need to create a Palestinian state, combating global warming. and ending gender inequality.

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Palestinians May Delay U.N. Bid
Sept. 21, 2011, 2:45 PM EDT

Has the U.S. averted a diplomatically disastrous veto? Palestinian leaders said Wednesday that they may delay their bid for statehood at the United Nations General Assembly and instead give the powerful Security Council time to consider the application. "We will give some time to the Security Council to consider first our full membership request before heading to the General Assembly,” said Nabil Shaath, a senior official of the Palestinian president’s Fatah party. Once the request reaches the Security Council—a body of 15 states that has the sole authority to grant membership—a full review could take weeks or even months. The U.S. has vowed to veto a statehood bid.

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Obama: Palestinians Deserve a State
Sept. 21, 2011 10:45 AM EDT

Speaking at the U.N. on Wednesday, President Obama said that Palestinians deserve their own statehood—but not through the vote that it scheduled for later in the week. Instead, Obama pushed more direct negotiations with Israel. "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.," Obama told the assembly. "If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now." The U.S. delegation is among the world leaders reportedly pushing a plan that would delay the Palestine vote, putting it under review in order to avoid having to use a veto. "Peace is hard," Obama said repeatedly in his address. Elsewhere, Obama boasted of reducing the number of Americans engaged in overseas combat by half during his term in office, and praised the “extraordinary transformation” of the Arab Spring.

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President Obama addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

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U.S., Europe Seek U.N. Vote Delay
Sept. 21, 2011 6:40 AM EDT

Tens of thousands of people rallied Wednesday in the West Bank to support Palestine’s U.N. bid for statehood. The U.N. vote, however, may not take place, as international leaders are unifying around a plan that would have the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, submit a request for recognition but then delay the actual vote in exchange for new peace talks with Israel. The Middle East “Quartet” of the U.N., EU, U.S., and Russia is pushing the plan, which would avoid confrontation and spare the U.S. from having to veto the Palestinian bid. Israel’s position, however, is unclear, including whether or not it would cease settlement construction in the West Bank. "The Palestinians are open to a way out of this," one diplomat tells The Guardian. "But they can't abandon the security council vote without something to show.”

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Clockwise from top right: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (Clockwise from top right: AP Photo (2); Getty Images (2))

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Obama Praises New Libyan Leaders
Sept. 20, 2011 1:30 PM EDT

President Barack Obama has arrived in New York, and he’s got a stressful week ahead of him, what with Palestine and Israel facing off and all. But the president’s first order of business was easy: meeting Libya’s transitional leaders for the first time, and praising them for overthrowing the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. “Just as the world stood by you in your struggle to be free, we will stand with you in your struggle to realize the peace and prosperity that freedom can bring,” the president said at the meeting with Libya’s Transitional National Council and its leader, Mustafa Abdel Jalil. He said the U.S. will offer continued support, and announced that it will officially reopen its embassy in Tripoli.

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Abbas Rallies Support Ahead of Vote
Sept. 20, 2011 10:50 AM EDT

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not replied to an offer from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume peace talks in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, but he is holding meetings with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Foreign Secretary William Hague Tuesday to press his bid for full Palestinian statehood. Netanyahu has increased his pressure to stall Abbas’ U.N. application, but the Palestinian leader seems to be publicly ignoring his efforts. Abbas outlined his plan for full U.N. membership to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday, and is meeting with world leaders gathered for the U.N. conference in order to build on his support ahead of the statehood vote later in the week.

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Netanyahu Calls for Peace Talks
Sept. 19, 2011 6:20 PM EDT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for renewed direct peace negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, even as Abbas prepared to submit a statehood bid to the U.N. “Unilateral measures are not the way to advance peace between us,” Netanyahu said. It is not known if Abbas responded to Netanyahu’s request, but he said on Monday that he still plans to submit the bid. Meanwhile, Hamas warned Abbas not to go the U.N. General Assembly, because that would show a willingness to negotiate with Israel. One Hamas official said, “We are warning him not to go. This is going to make more division inside the Palestinian people.”

The Case for Palestine

Denying Palestinians the legitimate legal and moral right to a homeland would mark the death of the two-state solution. By Ismail Khalidi.

As we approach a United Nations vote on membership for a Palestinian state, pundits and politicians continue to demand that the Palestinians withdraw their application, or at least delay it. Some, including Congress, have even turned to extortion, threatening to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if the vote ensues.

A U.N. vote is a valid subject for debate, of course, and many Palestinians have questioned the wisdom of this strategy. Yet there is something disturbing and paternalistic about the Palestinians once again being told by Americans, Europeans, and Israelis what is best for them.

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Clinton: Statehood Crisis Can Be Averted
Sept. 19, 2011 8:30 PM EDT

Hillary Clinton feels that there is still time to resolve the diplomatic crisis over the Palestinian plan to submit a bid for statehood and avoid a showdown at the U.N. later this week. The Secretary of State continues to talk to both sides about the issue, and hopes that the sides will agree to new talks. She reiterated the U.S. position that Palestine can only achieve statehood by negotiating with Israel.

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Abbas's Challenge to Obama

The Security Council vote could be a chance to make up for decades of foreign-policy missteps in the Middle East. By John Barry.

Henry Kissinger was angry. He had spent months of shuttle diplomacy trying to persuade Israel’s then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, to pull back from the Golan Heights territory the Jewish state had won from Syria in an epic tank battle two years earlier, during the 1973 war. But in the end, Rabin told Kissinger that although he saw the logic, he could not agree so soon to a move that everyone in Israel would see as a risk to their security. The most Rabin said he could accept was an interim deal postponing the hard questions. And so, after delivering the bad news in person to Anwar Sadat at the Egyptian president’s summer residence in Alexandria, Kissinger retreated for an hour to let off steam.

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Abbas: Nothing Will Stop Statehood Bid
Sept. 19, 2011 12:39 PM

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that nothing would keep him from requesting that the United Nations recognize a Palestinian state as the General Assembly gets under way this week. Abbas told the Associated Press he is moving forward with the plan despite intense opposition from the U.S. and Israel and “tremendous pressure” to drop it in favor of direct negotiations with Israel. But Abbas said there is “no contradiction between negotiations and going to the U.N.,” and that the proposals coming out of an intense effort to stop the statehood bid had all been unacceptable. Statehood is officially recognized by the U.N. Security Council, and requires 9 out of 15 votes.

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Opinion: How Obama Lost Israel
Sept. 19, 2011 6:25 AM EDT

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may not exactly get along, but Obama has time and time again had Israel’s back—and will again this week, as the U.S. expected to veto the Palestinians’ U.N. Security Council bid for statehood. “How, exactly, did Obama come to be portrayed, and perceived by many American Jews, as the most ardently anti-Israel president since Jimmy Carter?” John Heilmann asks in New York. Much of the blame, Heilmann argues, lies with Netanyahu, who has undercut his American counterpart. In the worst instance, Netanyahu lectured Obama for seven-and-a-half minutes on camera after Obama called for 1967 borders with “mutually agreed land swaps.” This has always been an agreed-upon solution to any peace deal, but Netanyahu tore into Obama because he “ knew he could get away with it—so staunch and absolute is the bipartisan support he commands in the U.S.”

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Narrow Support for Palestinian State
Sept. 18, 2011 10:00 PM EDT

A BBC poll found that more people support the recognition of the Palestinian territories as an independent state than oppose it. According to the poll, which surveyed people across 19 countries, 49 percent of respondents support the resolution, while just 21 percent oppose it. The resolution would grant international recognition to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. In the United States, 45 percent were in favor of the resolution, while 36 percent opposed it. Egypt, where 90 percent of respondents were in favor, offered the strongest support for the resolution, while in India only 32 percent of respondents were in favor.

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Israel's Self-Inflicted Isolation

How Benjamin Netanyahu has undermined Palestinian peace talks—and undermined Obama’s ability to help. By Peter Beinart.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s fury over the Palestinian bid for recognition at the United Nations reminds me of that famous line from the movie Cold Mountain: “they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, "Its rainin'!”

When Netanyahu became prime minister, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged him to resume negotiations where Abbas and Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, had left off.  According to the journalist Bernard Avishai and documents leaked to Al Jazeera, Abbas had agreed to a non-militarized Palestinian state, Israeli control over all the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, an international peacekeeping force in the Jordan Valley and the return of what chief negotiator Saab Erekat later called a “symbolic number” of Palestinian refugees to Israel. Olmert and Abbas were haggling over the holy sites in Jerusalem and over how much land Israel would swap inside its 1967 border in return for annexing settlements in the West Bank. But in Olmert’s words “We were very close” and Abbas “never said no.”

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