Palestinian envoy urges US not to veto UN bid
A top Palestinian envoy said she has tried in vain to persuade the Obama administration not to veto a Palestinian bid next month for UN membership of a state on the 1967 lines.
Hanan Ashrawi, who was sent to Washington by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, told AFP Tuesday she had urged US officials here this week to support, or at least not block, such a bid at the UN General Assembly in September.
US leaders should "not to use their veto against something which is part of their own policy and part of international law, which is the Palestinian right to independence and self-determination and statehood," she said.
President Barack Obama has backed calls for a Palestinian state along the battle lines that existed prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with mutually agreed land swaps.
But he has urged the Palestinians to press their case in direct negotiations with Israel instead of taking it to the United Nations.
The last round of peace talks stalled weeks after they were relaunched in Washington last September when Israel refused to renew a limited settlement freeze in occupied territory the Palestinians want for their future state.
Ashrawi said the Obama administration has already decided on a veto if the Palestinian Authority approaches the UN Security Council through a request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to seek full membership in the world body.
"I wish it were a matter only of persuasion. There's an adopted (US) position already and preconceived notions about going to the UN," said Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella group headed by Abbas.
"I wish I could have changed their mind," she said.
"They understood our reasons, because I explained that we are going in with a positive, constructive attitude. We're trying to do something in a multilateral way, and a legal, human and a constructive way."
She added that the talks were "really thorough and very candid, very open."
She argued that US policy is subject to the "undue influence" of the pro-Israel lobby, even if the administration understands the Palestinian push for a state in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Israel is opposed to the two-state solution along the 1967 boundaries, arguing that it would leave the Jewish state with indefensible borders and cut off hundreds of thousands of West Bank settlers.
"It wants to reinvent a peace process that is a sort of vague fishing expedition while it buys time to build more settlements, create more facts, annex more territory," Ashrawi said.
"American policies are being subjugated to Israeli priorities and Israeli hardline policies," she charged, adding that she had told administration officials such policies undermined US interests.
Ashrawi indicated that the bid for UN membership was among many options the Palestinians were considering for next month.
"We are leaving all options open and we are not limiting our choices," she said, adding that the Palestinians are consulting with Arab leaders, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
"We could go to the General Assembly and ask for a non-member state status, an upgrading of the PLO status as a permanent observer," she said.
"We could ask the General Assembly to urge its members to recognize the state of Palestine, and already we have over 120 recognitions," she said.
"And we could enter into membership status of all the UN agencies and organizations, which would also enable us to pursue policies of accountability and of course empowerment of the Palestinians."
Ashrawi took the Palestinian case to Ottawa last week, saying Canada had tilted its policy toward Israel.