Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon: Israel seeks support of 50 to 70 countries at General Assembly against Palestinian bid; PLO executive c'tee member says she believes there's still a chance to stop US veto.
The Palestinians are still hopeful that the United States won’t veto their bid for unilateral statehood at the Security Council in September, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said on Sunday.
“We still believe there can be a chance to get the US not to veto [such a resolution],” she told The Jerusalem Post.
“Otherwise,” she warned, “the US will isolate itself with Israel.”
“We are still in discussion and dialogue [with countries on this matter] including the US,” she said.
Ashrawi spoke both with the Post and reporters on Sunday, a day after Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said that plans were underway for the Palestinians to apply for membership status at the United Nations.
Such applications can only be made through the UN Security Council, where the US is one of five countries out of the 15-member body which can veto such a move. The US has already said that it plans to oppose unilateral Palestinian moves at the United Nations.
Separately, the Palestinians are also considering asking the General Assembly to upgrade their status from an observer mission to that of a nonmember state, a move that would grant them statehood recognition.
“We are keeping all our options open,” said Ashrawi on Sunday.
She added that the Palestinians were in dialogue with the US and other countries to solicit support for their statehood bid.
Israel in turn has been actively campaigning against those efforts. It has argued that statehood can only be achieved through direct negotiation.
The Palestinians have refused to hold direct talks with Israel until it halts settlement activity and Jewish construction in east Jerusalem. Israel has refused to cede to such a demand.
Israel has called on the Palestinians to negotiate and warned that divorcing statehood from the peace process would only endanger a final status agreement. Worse, it fears that the Palestinians would use the status of statehood to increase their diplomatic attacks on Israel and further isolate it in the international arena.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the Post on Sunday he believed that the Palestinians sought statehood rather than negotiations because it absolved them of the need to make the compromises necessary in a peace deal.
“Peace would mean compromises and they have not shown even in a modest way any willingness to compromise,” he said.
Israel, Ayalon said, has made many compromises including a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction as well as humanitarian and economic gestures.
Sitting in his office in the Foreign Ministry, Ayalon said what many Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have already said: that when it comes to the UN General Assembly, the Palestinians have an automatic majority.
“Our assumption is that they will push through this resolution [a bid for statehood at the General Assembly],” he said.
Still, he has made many trips in the last few months outside of Israel in hopes of swaying countries to oppose Palestinian unilateralism. On Monday, Ayalon leaves for Hungry, and later this month he is heading to Spain.
“We know that we do not have the numbers [at the General Assembly], because the Palestinians have the automatic majority, which consists of Arab, Muslim, satellite and developing countries,” he said.
Ayalon said Israel’s hope at the General Assembly is to sway a bloc of anywhere from 50 to 70 countries, including many Western countries such as the US, Canada and Europe, to oppose Palestinian unilateralism.
“These are countries who we believe will vote on the merit of the principle of the resolution and in the interest of region and will not be a rubber stamp for the Palestinians,” Ayalon said.
He added that these are countries that understand that a unilateral resolution for Palestinian statehood is a choice for conflict and friction and that support of such a measure is harmful to any future negotiations.
But Ashrawi said that a unilateral statehood bit at the UN was a “corrective” measure to deal with all the flaws of an “endless prolonged peace process that has lost its credibility.”
All that has happened during the peace process is that Israel has been allowed to act with impunity, particularly with respect to its continued settlement construction, she said.
“We do not want the Palestinians to lose hope. We do not want there to be a break down or a break out of violence.”
Ashrawi said she has been surprised by the Israeli reaction and the hysteria with which it has assumed that unilateral Palestinian statehood would have a negative impact or lead to bloodshed.
It’s true, she said, that there has been a call for popular nonviolent support such as marches in September when the UN General Assembly will meet.
“These will be peaceful marches. We will not resort to violence.”
The point of turning to the UN is to seek a nonviolent solution, she said.
“We are adopting a positive and constructive legal approach by turning to the international community and saying we are a part of you. Any solution has to be based on international law,” she said, adding: “Our right to self-determination is enshrined in the UN Charter.”
It would be “irresponsible” on the part of the US to oppose their efforts, Ashrawi said. “Freedom and the right to self determination is not subject to negotiation.”