World leaders have begun travelling to New York ahead of the 66th UN General Assembly where a vote will take place on Palestine’s attempt to gain membership of the international body. The move has been branded as a provocation by Israel and Barack Obama has said that he will veto the UN membership of Palestine, should the general assembly vote to accept them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday 18th September:
“…the truth is that Israel wants peace and the truth is that the Palestinians are doing everything to torpedo direct peace negotiations.
“They have ignored every proposal that I have made, both in my 14.6.09 Bar-Ilan speech and in my 24.5.11 speech to the US Congress. They have avoided coming to direct negotiations after this Government made an unprecedented decision to freeze new construction in the communities. For ten months, they simply were unwilling to come and negotiate. They need to understand that, despite their current attempt to again overturn the negotiations by going to the UN, peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations.
“Their attempt to be accepted as a member of the UN will fail. The Palestinians’ attempt to be accepted as a member of the UN is what they declared – one year ago – as their objective; this is what Abu Mazen recently declared as a goal. This attempt will fail. It will fail because it must go through the UN Security Council. Decisions that are binding on UN members pass through the Security Council. I am convinced that the activity of the US, which is deeply cooperating with us, as well as the activity of other governments with which we are also cooperating, will result in the failure of this attempt.”
The Israeli leader poured scorn on the impotence of the General Assembly saying:
“The UN also has the General Assembly in which almost any decision can be passed. It is possible to decide there that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, and this would pass there. But it has neither the same weight nor the same importance.”
The US has strongly backed Israel’s position, promising to veto action to create a Palestinian state through the UN. On 19th September, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communitcations Ben Rhodes reiterated this position saying the US would “make it clear that it’s going to be direct negotiations that achieves a peace and achieves a Palestinian state and a secure Israel, and it’s not going to be actions at the U.N. that achieves that goal”.
The debate has divided the world’s diplomacy in two. Australia has stated that it will back the United State’s position, whereas the Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud, recently reaffirmed his country’s strong support for “the just Palestinian cause, and the recognition of the sovereign Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital” as part of a meeting with the Palestinian Popular Campaign delegation headed by Aymen Sabbih.
The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, met with the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday 19th September 2011 on the fringes of the 66th UN General Assembly in New York. The President told Mr Ban that the Palestinian application for full membership of the UN will be made on Friday.
Under the UN Charter, the Secretary-General will verify the letter requesting UN membership and then send it to the Security Council and the General Assembly. The 193 member assembly will vote on the move, but the five permanent members of the Security Council – the United States, United Kingdom, France, the Russian Federation and China – have a veto on any such move.