Palestinians concede that bid for U.N. statehood will fail

 

McClatchy Newspapers

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian officials admitted Thursday that their bid for statehood in the United Nations in all likelihood has failed.

A U.N. Security Council committee that's been considering the Palestinian application for recognition as a member state is expected to issue a final statement Friday saying that it had been unable to muster majority support for the bid. The committee released a draft statement earlier this week that made the same point.

Without the approval of the Security Council, the Palestinian application for U.N. membership can't be considered by the 193-nation General Assembly, where it probably would have been approved.

Palestinian officials said they still hoped the Security Council would hold a vote to "name and shame" those who stood against them.

"We believed that those who do not think we deserve a state should say so publically, and not hide behind a technicality of not reaching a consensus," Palestinian spokesman Xavier Abu Eid said. Such a vote seemed unlikely, however.

The Palestinians needed at least nine nations on the Security Council to vote in favor of their membership in order to move the application to the General Assembly. The U.S., which holds veto power in the Security Council, had sworn to use its veto if it appeared that the Palestinians had secured the necessary votes.

U.S. diplomats managed to secure enough abstentions from among the Security Council's 15 members to deny the Palestinians nine votes, thus saving the U.S. from having to veto.

"We wanted to force the U.S. to use the veto because that would show the world what they truly are: a lackey of Israel that does their bidding. We all know that it was the U.S. that blocked us from getting a state in the U.N.," said one Palestinian official involved in the bid, who agreed to discuss the issue only on the condition of anonymity.

In September, Palestinians applied for full membership in the U.N. as a state that included the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They had been working toward the bid for several years. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had made international recognition of a Palestinian state a central tenant of his government and had prepared for statehood by securing U.S.-trained security forces, reorganizing municipal offices and seeking diplomatic ties with interested parties.

But the membership bid was vociferously opposed by the United States and Israel, with the U.S. arguing that granting the bid would undercut peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. Israeli officials said that once Palestinian statehood was granted, there would be little reason for the Palestinians to make concessions in other areas.

The Palestinian official said the Security Council was divided into three groups, with only the U.S. directly opposing Palestinian membership. Russia, China, Brazil, India, Lebanon, South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria supported the Palestinian bid, and Britain, Germany, Portugal, France and Colombia said they'd abstain in any vote. Bosnia didn't speak.

"We were just one country away from getting the nine we needed. But we could not convince them. We had hoped that France or Portugal would sway, or the U.K., but they were being held in line by the United States," the official said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Maliki said it was clear that the "U.S. counter-effort and huge intervention stopped us from getting those nine votes. ... The USA has recruited all of its capacities in order to foil us."

Palestinian officials said they'd continue to seek "alternative paths" to statehood, which could include recognition in international bodies such as the World Health Organization or the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Earlier this month, Palestine was accepted as a full member of the U.N.'s cultural organization, UNESCO, prompting the U.S. to announce that it was cutting off $60 million in funds to the group. On Thursday, UNESCO said it had been forced to suspend all its spending programs until the end of the year because of the lack of funding.

(Frenkel is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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