On Friday Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has submitted a written request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (photo, frombbcimg.co.uk) for recognition of the Palestinian territories as a full member.
According to Palestinian sources the request pictures a state based on pre-1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital.
Shortly afterwards Mr Abbas received huge applause and a standing ovation from some of the General Assembly before he began his speech in which he asked the Security Council to approve full Palestinian membership of the UN.
“Here I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference … and a complete cessation of settlement activities,” he told the UN General Assembly.
“I also appeal to the states that have not yet recognised the State of Palestine to do so.”
“The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other people of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland,” he said.
He added that the Palestinians had entered negotiations with Israel with sincere intentions, the previous peace talks were “smashed against the rocks of the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September”.
Then to Israel he said “come to peace”.
“I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity,” he added.
“Let us build the bridges of dialogue instead of checkpoints and walls of separation.”
However he said that “the primary cause for the failure of the peace process” was the building of Jewish settlements.
This speech was criticised by Salah Bardawil a spokesman for the Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls the Gaza Strip. He said that Mr Abbas had deviated from the aspirations of the Palestinian people by accepting the 1967 borders, which he said left 80% of Palestinian land inside Israel.
‘A state without peace’
Less than an hour after Mr Abbas speech Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo, from lexpress.fr) went on the podium to talk to the UN General Assembly.
He blamed Palestinians for refusing to negotiate, when he was reaching out to them. “The truth is the Palestinians want a state without peace.”
“I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner in peace,” he said.
“Let’s meet here today in the United Nations. Who’s there to stop us?”
He also challenged a comment by Mr Abbas who said the Palestinians were armed “only with their hopes and dreams”. Mr Netanyahu said : “Hopes, dreams — and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran.”
About settlements, he said “President Abbas, stop walking around this issue”, adding that the core of the conflict was the refusal of the Palestinians to recognise the Jewish state.
Concerning the United Nations, Mr Abbas said it had a historical responsibility to solve the problem, while the Israeli PM reviewed the many occasions when it had issued resolutions against Israel, arguing that it had been unjustly condemned “more often than all the other nations combined.”
‘Declare our state’
Both Israel and the US said only talks with Israel can lead to a Palestinian state.
“Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem,” president Obama told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
At the same time rallies are being organised in the West Bank and giant TV screens have been set up in several cities to allow people to watch Mr Abbas’s speech in front of the UN General Assembly.
“I am going to listen to Abbas’s speech because it will tell us our future and our destiny, and we are expecting so much from him, to declare our state,” Khalil Jaberi, a 21-year-old university student in the city of Hebron, told the Associated Press news agency.
Some clashes were reported although Mr Abbas has called for peaceful marches in support of his initiative.
Israeli troops killed one Palestinian during clashes in the village of Qusra, south of Nablus, according to Palestinian sources.
At the Qalandiya checkpoint, Israeli troops fired tear gas on stone-throwing Palestinian youths. And Israeli flags and pictures of president Obama were burned by protesters in the village of Nabi Saleh.
Now Ban Ki-moon has to decide whether the application is in order and if it is then the Security Council will examine it and vote on it, which could take weeks to come about. To pass the application would need the approval of at least nine out of 15 council members and no vetoes from permanent members.
Among the 15 members Brazil, China, India, Lebanon, South Africa and Russia are expected to vote in favour of the Palestinian plan. The positions of European members – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Britain, France, Germany, and Portugal – and those of Colombia, Gabon and Nigeria are not yet clear.
But the vote could count for nothing because on Thursday president Barack Obama warned Mr Abbas that he would use its veto at the UN Security Council in order to block the move.
However the US may not need to use its veto because Washington and Israel have already been lobbying council member to either vote against the Palestinian application or abstain.
Palestinians said their bid for statehood is the result of years of failed peace talks and has been inspired by the Arab Spring, which have been praised by many countries.
Although UN recognition would have mostly a symbolic value, the Palestinians – who currently have observer status, which means that they can listen but not vote – said it would give them more weight in future peace talks.
And the Palestinians’ move has refocused international attention on one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, about a year after the peace talks were stalled.