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Palestinian leaders weigh U.N. options

By REMA RAHMAN, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI   |   July 13, 2011 at 3:39 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) -- A PLO leader said Palestinians will consider bypassing the U.N. Security Council and going directly to the General Assembly when it requests admission to the United Nations in September.

The option, if accepted, would allow the Palestinians to become a non-member state in the United Nations. For full recognition, leaders are also considering acceptance by the Security Council first, which could postpone the process.

The first avenue is a way to "avoid any delay tactics by a permanent member" of the Security Council," said Chief PLO Representative Maen Areikat. "It has not [been] done before but we can do that."

There are five permanent members of the Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

A day after a Quartet meeting -- among the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- failed to produce a solution to reignite Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Areikat on Tuesday discussed his country's admittance to the United Nations.

On July 16, the Arab League will meet in Cairo to decide the next move Palestinian leaders need to make. They must draft the U.N. request by the end of the month to go before the General Assembly in September.

"Any state that is peace-loving and that is willing and able to carry out the [U.N Charter] obligations is supposed to be admitted," Ohio State University international law Professor John Quigley said during Tuesday's panel discussion at the Palestine Center.

Both Israel and the United States have expressed concern that this request undermines peace negotiations that they say should occur only between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Ari Goldberg, spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a U.S. pro-Israel lobbying group, said in an interview that by going to the United Nations, Palestinian leaders were circumventing negotiations "directly between the two parties on such things as borders and refugees, nothing is likely to change for the better."

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelming passed a resolution July 7 urging U.S. President Barack Obama to consider suspending economic aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues to pursue statehood outside of direct negotiations with Israel.

The resolution cites the Palestinian Authority's recent reconciliation with the radical Islamic group Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization, as the key element for non-support of statehood.

That concern is one shared by Israelis. When Israeli leaders sit down with Palestinians, they want to make sure it's with those "who are committed to a comprehensive lasting peace agreement," Goldberg said.

Despite Hamas having been vocal about not living side-by-side with Israel, Areikat said all Palestinian leaders agree on the same thing – an independent Palestinian state on pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

Areikat said it is the PLO, not Hamas, that "will continue to be steering and supervising political issues and the issues of negotiations if and when they are resumed."

"We are not in the business of de-legitimizing Israel," Areikat said at the discussion. "We are in the business of legitimizing Palestine."

"The Palestinian people are basically fed up," Areikat said. "They are not going to allow for this status quo to continue."

Areikat said leaders considered their options more publicly after U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the General Assembly last year that called for "a new member of the United Nations -- and independent sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel."

For Palestinians on the ground, even if admittance and recognition is granted, it's unlikely they will see an immediate change in their circumstances.

"It doesn't do anything to improve the quality of lives of both people," Goldberg said. "Both parties (Israelis and Palestinians) have to sit down and hammer down a final agreement."

Still, Areikat hopes admittance and recognition by the U.N. could eventually pave the way for a peaceful solution.

"This is not a ploy. It's not a trick. We don't gamble with the future of our people by going to the United Nations," Areikat said. "We are going there to deliver a very clear message: The status quo will not continue. The Palestinians are not going to accept to be under the only military occupation left in the world."

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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