Saturday, September 17, 2011

Obama Scrambles to Avoid Embarrassment Over UN Palestine Vote

Jim Meyers

The Obama administration is making a last-ditch effort to head off a major diplomatic embarrassment over the looming Palestinian request for recognition of its statehood at the United Nations.

The U.S. is applying diplomatic pressure on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to persuade them to reopen negotiations before the United Nations can take action.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will take the request for full recognition as a state to the U.N. Security Council in the coming week.

obama palestine un voteSecretary of State Hillary Clinton has sent special envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross to the region to hold talks with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Guardian reported.

And State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Tuesday that Washington would “leave no stone unturned” to avoid a U.N. vote and get the Israelis back into peace talks, according to The Telegraph.

“Washington is keen to avoid carrying out a threat to veto a Palestinian request for full membership of the U.N., a move likely to further damage America’s already battered reputation in the Middle East, particularly following its strong backing for moves toward self-determination in the region this year,” the Guardian observed.

Two of the other four Security Council members with veto power, Russia and China, back the Palestinian effort. But some European and Arab nations are urging Abbas to take his request to the U.S. General Assembly, which can offer only observer status to the Palestinians, to save the U.S. the embarrassment of having to wield its veto.

The Palestinians insist that their U.N. effort does not preclude resuming negotiations later.

The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Netanyahu plans to address the U.N. General Assembly on the same day that Abbas delivers a speech calling for Palestinian statehood.

“The General Assembly is not a place where Israel usually receives a fair hearing,” Netanyahu said. “But I still decided to tell the truth before anyone who would like to hear it.”

According to the Times, “the announcement suggests that the Israeli government now has little faith in the last-ditch effort by U.S. and European negotiators to stop the Palestinian drive for statehood at the U.N.”

obama palestine un stateBut hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned on Wednesday that there would be “harsh and grave” consequences if the Palestinians go ahead with their plan to seek statehood, although he did not specify what those consequences might be.

In the past he has called for Israel to cut off all relations with the Abbas administration if it goes forward with its U.N. bid, according to The Telegraph.

Some Israeli ministers are calling for Israel to annex parts of the West Bank if the Palestinians proceed with their statehood request. Other threats include abandoning the Oslo accords, under which the Palestinian Authority was given control of parts of the West Bank and Gaza, and withholding tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the Guardian disclosed.

And the U.S. Congress has threatened to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians.

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