Palestinians vs US: who will score more UN Council votes?
Palestinian envoys are battling for UN Security Council votes to back their effort to win full UN membership, while the United States is using its diplomatic big guns to make the bid fail.
The Security Council held its first meeting to discuss the application on Monday and is to meet again Wednesday to formally send the request made by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to a membership committee.
The Palestinian campaign faces an uphill struggle as the United States has vowed to veto any resolution backing their application. No vote at the 15-member council is expected for several weeks however and frenzied lobbying has started.
On top of campaigning at the UN, the Palestinians are to send high level delegations to council members Bosnia, Gabon and Nigeria in a bid to win backing, Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, told reporters.
The United States and Israel, which insist that only direct negotiations can produce an accord, are lobbying furiously for council members to oppose or abstain in the resolution.
If the resolution does not get nine votes in favor it will fail and the United States will not have to use its veto.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the Palestinian bid with Lebanon's Prime Minister Nijab Mikati at the UN headquarters before Monday's meeting, US officials said. Lebanon holds the council presidency in September and has backed the Palestinian bid.
She also raised the case Monday with Colombia's Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.
Nine of the 15 council members already recognize the Palestinian state, but diplomats say the Palestinians will struggle to get nine votes.
Only China, Russia, Lebanon, India, South Africa and Brazil have declared themselves certain to vote for the Palestinian bid.
"This is an exercise in which there will be tremendous pressure on members of the Security Council, but we trust in our friends," Mansour said.
Despite the US opposition, Mansour called on the Security Council to "synchronize itself with history" and approve Palestinian membership.
US President Barack Obama told Abbas publicly and privately at the UN last week that there could be no Palestinian state without an accord with the Israelis reached through direct talks.
The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East -- the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations -- launched a new bid to resume talks after Abbas made his historic application, setting a target of an accord by the end of 2012.
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave strong support to the Quartet initiative in his speech to the UN General Assembly on Monday.
"Two states existing peacefully side by side are possible. However, this can only be achieved through negotiations," he said.
"The confrontation of words here in New York must not be allowed to lead to an escalation in violence in the Middle East," he added, calling for "direct negotiations without delay!"
China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also added to the long list of international calls for new talks in his speech to the UN assembly.
The Quartet has called for talks to start within a month, proposals from both sides in three months, major progress in six months and a final deal by the end of 2012.
Abbas, riding a wave of popular support in the occupied territories, says he is ready for talks but first there must be a "complete halt" to Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories.
Israel's Netanyahu has said he wants talks without conditions and is refusing to halt the new settlements.
A senior UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on the sidelines of the Clinton-Mikati talks that he saw "little hope" for new talks.
If the Security Council bid fails, the Palestinians are expected to go to the UN General Assembly to seek observer state membership of the UN. They would almost certainly get a majority in favor.
France has called for the Palestinians to be given observer state membership in a bid to defuse the diplomatic clash.