UNITED NATIONS – Despite US and Israeli warnings, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas presented a request to the United Nations on Friday, September 23, for full membership of a Palestinian state.
"I call upon Mr Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favor of our full membership," Abbas told the General Assembly, which greeted him with a standing ovation.
"I also appeal to the states that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so."
The Palestinian request will now be considered by the UN Security Council, a move which may take some time.
Washington has threatened to veto the Palestinian statehood recognition and Israel has threatened punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority.
In case of a US veto, the Palestinians can ask the General Assembly to elevate their UN status from an observer to a "non-state member."
Washington has no enough support to block a vote by the General Assembly, which is expected to overwhelmingly support the Palestinian bid.
The change would pave the way for the Palestinians to join dozens of United Nations bodies and conventions.
It could also strengthen the Palestinian ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
"The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland," Abbas said.
Abbas blamed Israel’s settlement policy for the collapse of the Middle East peace process.
"This (Israeli settlement) policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-state solution and ... threatens to undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence," Abbas said.
It was the first time Abbas has spoken so starkly of the prospect of the PA's demise, highlighting the predicament faced by a body set up as a state-in-waiting but now seen by its critics as a big municipality, managing the civilian affairs of the main Palestinian cities under Israeli occupation.
The United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1947, but Arab states rejected that and declared war on the new state of Israel, which then captured more territory than it had been allotted under the UN plan and dispossessed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who became refugees.
Two decades after Israel seized the West Bank, including Al-Quds (east Jerusalem), and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war, the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized Israel and reduced its demands to a state on those territories.
A 1993 agreement signed by PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin set out a plan for Palestinian self-rule, which was never fully implemented.
Israel has continued to expand settlements in the West Bank, although it dismantled them in the Gaza Strip.
There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied territory.
The international community considers all settlements on the occupied land illegal.
The Palestinians see statehood as opening the way for negotiations between equals. Israel says the Palestinian move aims at de-legitimizing the Jewish state.
"Our people will continue their popular, peaceful resistance," Abbas declared.
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