Thursday, Sept. 15, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas went back on his assurance 24 hours earlier to Saudi, European and Egyptian officials and decided to go through with his application to the UN Security Council on Sept. 23 for the admission of a Palestinian state to the world body. This was a pointed rebuff to the Obama administration after the White House sent two envoys, senior presidential Middle East adviser Dennis Ross and peace talks adviser David Hale, with an offer to renew US ties with the Palestinian leader if he recalled the application.
After the Palestinians announced their reversal, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided Thursday he would lead the Israeli delegation to the UN General Assembly and represent Israel in the debate on the Palestinian application for UN acceptance of their statehood.
Abbas has clearly followed the lead of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who Tuesday urged the Arab League to back the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN and continued to escalate his confrontational stance against Israel. Abbas was offered Turkish diplomatic and financial aid to help the PA weather its financial crisis if the Palestinians agreed to line up behind Ankara.
DEBKAfile's sources warn that with 7 days to go, this may not be the last Palestinian change of mind.
We reported Wednesday, Sept. 14 that Mahmoud Abbas had notified Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and European Union foreign executive Catherine Ashton in Cairo he had backed off his UN Security Council bid and even considering watering down his application to the UN General Assembly – possibly by dropping the "state within 1967 borders" provision from the text.
Abbas said he would make his final decision known in a public address from Ramallah Friday, Sept 16 before flying to New York to join world leaders at the UN General Assembly's 66th session which began Tuesday.
But first, he meets Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair in Amman for a conversation which DEBKAfile's exclusive sources term critical, because Blair will hand him a document termed by senior Washington sources "an outline" of a new format designed to oil Palestinian wheels into unlocking the long-stalled Palestinian dialogue with Israel.
This outline has been endorsed by Washington, the EU and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It is now subject to acceptance by Israel and the Palestinians. Moscow has not yet indicated whether it approves the document or wants changes.
By Wednesday morning, the Israeli government had not yet received a copy. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has no doubt that he will be called upon for concessions extreme enough to lure the Palestinian leader back to the table. Blair is expected to deliver the document to Netanyahu some time Thursday after Abbas has seen it. To tie up the ends, senior White House envoys, Dennis Ross and David Hale, are due back in Jerusalem and Ramallah Wednesday.
During his visit to Cairo, Mahmoud Abbas was sternly warned by Saud al Faisal, Ashton and Egyptian leaders of the grave consequences awaiting the Palestinians if he forced the US to exercise its veto against their statehood at the UN Security Council. US President Barack Obama Tuesday made it crystal clear that he "objects very strongly" to the Palestinian statehood motion as "counterproductive" and "a distraction from solving problems that can only be addressed through negotiations."
US sources report that the US President has refused to talk to Abbas for the past eight months owing to his refusal to join Israel for direct peace talks. He was advised by the Europeans, the Saudis and Egyptians this week that the US presidential boycott would almost certainly extend to fellow Palestinian leaders and US financial aid. The Palestinian Authority would thus be placed under American sanctions. However, if he withdrew his statehood bid from the Security Council and accepted the new position paper, Obama would consider restoring communications.
Tuesday, Sept. 13, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "The path to creating an independent Palestinian state lies through direct talks between Ramallah and Jerusalem – not New York," she said. Early Wednesday, the General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar reported that the Palestinians had not yet submitted their request to the General Assembly. It would therefore not come up for debate before October.
DEBKAfile's sources report that while Mahmoud Abbas appears to have been hassled into a partial climb-down from his original plan to bypass talks with Israel by gaining UN approval of Palestinian statehood, he may not have caved in completely. Neither is it clear whether Netanyahu will swallow the new blueprint Tony Blair is about to dish up.