US to veto Palestinian UN membership bid; Bonds with Israel unbreakable: Obama

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French leader Nicolas Sarkozy proposes UN observer status as interim solution to end 20 years of fruitless talks

ByGisela Perez-Mauri, United Nations, New York.

Shortly after addressing the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly, US President Barack Obama reaffirmed America’s long commitment to Israel. The bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable and the United States commitment to Israel security is stronger than ever, Obama said shortly after signaling a veto to possible Palestinian candidacy for a UN seat.

We’ve made our position clear, which is that we oppose any action at the UN Security Council including, if necessary, vetoing, the White House national security council spokesman Ben Rhodes said, Reuters news agency reported.

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warmly responded to the warm commitment of his main ally saying the US support to Israel’s peace and security deserves a badge of honour, sealing what seemed to be a declaration of eternal love between the two countries that have long shaped their future together.

Despite the lack of US support, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is determined to seek full UN membership at the Security Council this Friday.

“He has been very clear what his intent is, which is to go to the Council and to begin the process of securing membership there, Rhodes confirmed, Reuters news agency reported.

DIRECT TALKS THE ONLY PATH TO STATEHOOD

us president barack obama un palestine veto
United States President Barack Obama speaks during the the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on 21 September, 2011 in New York City. The annual event, which is being dominated this year by the Palestinian’s bid for full membership, gathers more than 100 heads of state and government for high level meetings on Middle East peace, nuclear safety, regional conflicts, health and nutrition and environment issues. Photo – Mario Tama/Getty Images

However, the decisions of both the leaders are not surprising. After days of warnings of a US veto to the Palestinian bid, President Obama made it clear that a Palestinian state could only be conceived through direct negotiations with Israel.

There is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work, said President Obama before the plenary of the General Assembly. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians not us who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them, President Obama said before a far less receptive General Assembly that he addressed last year, when he said he hoped that Palestine would sit today among the sovereign nations.

President Abbas looked down and covered his face with his left hand. His Palestinian colleagues looked disappointedly at the man addressing the forum of now-193 member states of the international community.

We will only succeed in that effort if we can encourage the parties to sit down, to listen to each other, and to understand each others hopes and each others fears. That is the project to which America is committed, the US President said, setting the path to more years of fruitless talks between Israel and Palestine in addition to the two decades of failed negotiations. The last round of talks broke down last year.

THE ARAB SPRING AND PALESTINE

President Obama made clear his position and expressed unconditional support of the United States to those men and women, of all religions and ethnicities, who stood up for their universal rights to freedom, justice and democracy.

We saw in those protesters the moral force of non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw, from Selma to South Africa — and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the Arab world, he continued while Palestinian delegates looked at the US leader with an incredulous glance.

In line with the US position on the Arab Spring uprisings, Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, accused Obama of being selective when upholding principles of freedom and self-determination.

“When it comes to Palestinians suffering from an oppressive foreign military occupation, somehow these principles do not apply, Ashrawi said. They only apply when Arabs rebel against their own oppressive regime,” Reuters quoted the Palestinian representative as saying.

OBSERVER STATE STATUS

One of the major US allies in Europe, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acknowledged the failure of Western countries to help provide a solution to the Middle East longest conflict.

We can wait no longer! The method used up to now has failed, the French leader said in a forceful tone. Let us cease our endless debates on the parameters and begin negotiations.

The European leader suggested the status of observer state for Palestine at the General Assembly as a bridge to the final status of statehood, downgrading Palestine’s intention to seek full membership. The Palestinians insist they want to break a 20 years-old deadlock of failed talks facilitated by Washington. This interim solution lays one step further than the already expected US response, a leitmotiv of decades-long unsuccessful foreign policy that was embraced by several presidents.

To achieve the final goal of having an Arab State, the European leader put on the table a twelve-months-long timetable to revive negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, after expressing frustration over an ongoing 6 decades-long conflict.

One month to resume discussions, six months to reach an agreement on borders and security, and one year to reach a definitive agreement, said the French President, dissociating himself from the American approach. And then, as a magic formula, this timetable would bring a peaceful end to decades-long conflict which has shaped the map of international relations between West and the Middle East and has led years of political and financial manoeuvres among the allies of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

OBSERVER STATUS QUANDARY

If President Abbas decides to seek the observer state status something which seems likely to be backed by the majority of General Assembly members Palestine would enjoy the same status as that of the Vatican. This status does not allow the Holy See to vote on resolutions at the General Assembly, but enables the city-state to express its opinion on the topics of debate. The observer status would enable the Palestinians to go to the International Criminal Court for claims against Israel.

CONSEQUENCES IN THE ARAB WORLD

The French President, however, was the only European leader to raise concerns about a possible violent response in the Arab World, which would see freedom-seeking Palestinians denied from enjoying the benefits of Arab Spring.

Is there anyone who doubts that a veto at the Security Council will engender a cycle of violence in the Middle East?French President raised the question at the UN General Assembly.

President Obama chose not to comment on the interim solution proposed by his French counterpart when asked by reporters.

Some members of the international community, such as the Foreign Minister of Spain, Trinidad Jimnez, qualified the French proposal as positive, since it embraces different sensibilities within the European Union. Spain, a country with growing political instabilities between some of its provinces and the central government, has long worked closely with the European Union to try to find a favorable solution to Palestine.

On the other hand, a far more proactive speech was delivered by the Bolivian President Evo Morales in which he directly approached the decades-long issue.

There has been bombardment in Libya to help the rebels oust a government. Why there is no bombardment against Israelis who have hurt the Palestinians so much? Where is the NATO now? President Morales asked while comparing both conflicts engulfing the Arab World. Why there has been no attempt to hold direct talks between the rebels and pro-Gadhafi forces? the Bolivian leader questioned.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, also spoke before the General Assembly, and discussed the issue of Palestinian bid for a UN seat. He also asked for a return to the negotiation table, without saying anything about a possible veto, in the event Palestine finally decides to present its candidacy to full membership at the Security Council this Friday.

DECISIVE ACTION

President Mahmoud Abbas will take the straight path to full recognition of Palestine as a member state, long-denied at the Security Council. A more than expected US veto would not only prevent Palestine from its legitimate right to become a sovereign state insisted President Abbas but would greatly compromise the United States before a mainly sympathetic international community.

The extend of the consequences of this conclusive US response in the Arab World is unpredictable at a moment of political instability all across the Greater Middle East. However, the final veto is set to weaken the image of the United States as an unconditional supporter of the search for freedom, justice and democracy of peoples of all kinds.

Now, the onus is upon the Palestinian leader to take a stand in a world where, as President Obama pointed out, there is no longer place for authoritative regimes and denial of human rights.

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