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Security Council to debate statehood; Abbas on 'Palestinian Spring'; Full Annexation Call
Security Council's five permanent members split over PA's request, so consultations are not expected to lead to a formal vote anytime in the near future, UN sources say.
UN Security Council members will convene on Monday for informal consultations on the Palestinian Authority's application for admission to the United Nations as a full member state.
Under UN rules, a new member state can be admitted only on the Security Council's recommendation. If the council recommends acceptance, the General Assembly must then vote on whether to ratify the decision.
Currently, the council's five permanent members are split over the PA's request, so the consultations are not expected to lead to a formal vote anytime in the near future, UN sources said.
"It's highly likely that the consultations will continue for some weeks," said the deputy head of one Western mission to the United Nations. "The Palestinian application is considered an extremely sensitive issue, and in particular, it's a source of controversy between the council's two leading powers, the United States and Russia. Therefore, no quick decision that would produce an official debate and vote is expected."
However, the diplomat added, the rules allow an unofficial consultation to be declared official on the spot and without warning, albeit this happens only rarely.
The pace of the informal consultations and the timing of the meetings is generally dictated by the council's five permanent members. Because these five have veto power over resolutions, the council would usually prefer to find a formula they can all live with, if that is possible, rather than proceeding immediately to a vote in which one of the five is certain to cast a veto.
However, this process can result in substantial delays. As an example, officials in New York cited the fate of a draft resolution proposing sanctions on Syria that France submitted six weeks ago. Due to Russia's opposition, the council has yet to hold a single official debate on the matter - a situation French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe recently described as scandalous.
Informal consultations are always held behind closed doors, and no one except the council members' official representatives are allowed to attend. Nothing said in such a consultation is binding.
Thousands gather in Ramallah as Palestinian President returns from New York; Abbas expected to convene top ministers to discuss the Quartet's proposal for renewing peace talks.
Thousands of Palestinians cheering and waving flags gave President Mahmoud Abbas a hero's welcome in the West Bank Sunday, as he told them triumphantly a "Palestinian Spring" had been born following his historic speech to the UN last week.
Abbas' popularity has skyrocketed since he asked the UN on Friday to recognize Palestinian independence, defying appeals from Israel and the United States to return to peace talks. His request has pushed the region into uncharted waters, and left the international community scrambling over how to respond.
Thousands of people crowded Abbas' West Bank headquarters in the city of Ramallah to get a glimpse of the 76-year-old president upon his return from New York. Abbas was uncharacteristically animated, shaking his hands and waving to the audience.
Abbas compared his campaign to the Arab Spring, the mass
demonstrations sweeping the Arab world in hopes of freedom, saying that an independent Palestinian state is inevitable.
"We have told the world that there is the Arab Spring, but the Palestinian Spring has been born," he said. "A popular spring, a populist spring, a spring of peaceful struggle that will reach its goal."
He warned that the Palestinians face a "long path" ahead. "There are those who would put out obstacles ... but with your presence they will fall and we will reach our end."
Later on Sunday, Abbas was expected to convene his top ministers and advisers to discuss the Quartet's proposal.
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.
Israel says it's ready for peace talks, but has rejected Palestinian calls to freeze construction of Jewish settlements in lands claimed by the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also rejected Palestinian demands that the borders between Israel and a future Palestine be based on the 1967 pre-war lines.
Abbas last week asked the UN Security Council to grant the Palestinians full UN membership. The Security Council is expected to study the request for several weeks before making a decision, though the U.S., Israel's closest ally, has promised to veto the request if it proceeds.
As an alternative, the Palestinians say they will seek lesser observer status in the General Assembly - short of full statehood but a position that would allow them to join international bodies where they could push their agenda against Israel.
The international Quartet of Mideast mediators - the U.S., EU, Russia and the UN - last week issued a statement calling for a resumption of peace talks without preconditions and a target for a final agreement by the end of 2012. Abbas has signaled he will reject the Quartet's plan, while Israel has hinted it accepts it.
Israeli sources reported that Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, along with eight senior members of his cabinet decided on Tuesday at night to support an initiative presented by the Quartet regarding the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the plan was presented by EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, at the UN headquarters on Friday calling on Israel and the Palestinians to resume direct peace talks within a month, while proposals for talks on borders and security would be presented within three months.
The plan also states that a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be reached by the end of 2012.
The Quartet Committee is composed of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
But, Haaretz quoted Israeli officials claiming that Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, would rather see his statehood bid go through instead of renewing peace talks with Tel Aviv.
The Israeli decision to accept the Quartet proposal comes despite the fact that Tel Aviv decided On Monday to approve a plan for the construction of 1100 new units for Jewish settlers in the Gilo illegal settlement, south of occupied East Jerusalem.
The United States condemned the Israeli plan dubbing it as counterproductive to all efforts to resume the stalled peace talks.
Despite the condemnation and expressing disappointment over the decision, U.S State Department Spokeswoman, Victoria Noland, claimed that Israel “showed flexibility at least when it comes to responding to the Quartet’s call for resuming talks”, Haaretz said.
The Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank slammed the Israeli decision and considered it as another proof that Israel is not interested in peace.
Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salaam Fayyad, stated that Netanyahu talks about “Israel’s readiness to hold talks with no preconditions then approves more settlement construction and expansion”.
“The new Israeli decision to build the 1100 units is by itself a precondition set by Israel”, Dr. Fayyad added, “Nothing can be more unilateral that a decision to build this large number of settlement units on Palestinian lands”.
As for the Palestinian UN-bid, Haaretz said that sources at the United Nations headquarters revealed that the United States that vowed to veto the Palestinian bid, managed to obtain the majority of seven Security Council members, an issue that would ensure foiling the Palestinian bid without a U.S. veto.
Furthermore, senior European Union representatives at the United Nations reportedly told the Palestinian leadership that the Palestinian UN bid will jeopardize European aid to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
A group of right-wing Israeli legislators submitted a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister on Monday stating that in response to the Palestinian Authority's unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations, Israel must retaliate by fully annexing all West Bank settlements as part of the state of Israel. The call comes just as the Israeli Jerusalem municipality prepares to approve 1,100 new settlement units on Palestinian land in the settlement of Gilo, near Bethlehem.
The plan to move ahead with new settlement construction in Gilo received preliminary approval by the Israeli Jerusalem municipality, and was submitted to the Jewish National Fund, which owns 90% of the land in Israel, for a 60-day public comment period, after which it is expected to receive final approval, and new construction will begin.
In the midst of protests over high housing prices in Israel, Israeli authorities have sought to construct new units in illegal West Bank settlements and encourage young people to move there -- in violation of international law and past signed agreements.
Indeed, Interior Minister Eli Yishai issued a directive that 20% of the new units constructed in Israeli settlements should be set aside for young couples.
The right-wing Israeli legislators who submitted a letter to the Prime Minister on Monday made a far-reaching recommendation that the Israeli government officially annex over half of the West Bank, which was occupied by Israeli forces in 1967 but remains Palestinian Territory. This annexation would leave Palestinians with just 13% of their original land, split into discontiguous islands, or reservations, much like the Native American reservations where people were forced to live after European colonizers took over their land.
In their letter, the legislators wrote, "The international damage that Israel could suffer in the wake of the UN vote is significantly smaller than that it would suffer if it doesn't follow up on the principle you set a decade ago – 'If they give, they'll get; if they don't give, they get nothing." This last part was a reference to the Palestinian Authority and the Camp David Accords of 2000, during which the Israeli negotiators attempted to force the Palestinians to give up their internationally-recognized rights, including the right to freedom of movement, the right of return for refugees, and the right to live in a defensible state with clearly-defined borders.
The Israeli legislators, mainly from the right-wing Kadima party, called on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to also cut off the aid money to Palestinians, which comes from international donors, but has to pass through Israeli hands for taxation, to accelerate the construction of new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to prevent all Palestinian construction in the West Bank, and to cancel the 'VIP' cards of Palestinian officials which allows them easier access through the over 500 internal checkpoints run by the Israeli army in every part of the West Bank.