Palestinians push for elevated UN status: Did Gaza conflict help?
Some nations are warming to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's bid for enhanced UN status. After the Gaza conflict, they see the moderate Abbas as a counterweight to Hamas.
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“We share the concern that we have not been able to move forward” in negotiations for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday. “It is in that spirit that we have been encouraging President Abbas to come to the negotiating table with the Israelis without preconditions. That’s the way to take this forward,” she added, “not in the GA,” the General Assembly.Skip to next paragraph
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Israel remains opposed to the UN bid, but it has tempered its once ferocious opposition and in recent days has portrayed the vote as inconsequential – a shift that reflects Israel's desire not to alienate Western countries that vote for the initiative.
For months, Israel warned of dire consequences for Abbas and his Palestinian Authority if they moved ahead on the UN bid – threatening even to nullify the Oslo Accords and to topple the PA leadership. But on Wednesday, Israeli officials played down those earlier threats, saying the Israeli government would not respond to a successful UN vote by canceling any agreements with the Palestinians, according to wire reports.
The situation in Gaza could partly explain Israel's softening stance, too. Even some pro-Israel analysts say it would not have served Israel’s purposes to continue to threaten Abbas and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank just as Hamas is seeing its status enhanced, particularly among Arab countries.
This calmer stance is the correct one, some analysts say. The right response was “for Israel to shrug its shoulders and say, ‘Let Abbas go and do what you want, it’s not really going to bring you a state,’ ” said Robert Malley, Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group, in remarks this week at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
Mr. Malley, whose work has allowed for close knowledge of Abbas, said a unilateral step like going to the UN is “not who he is, but he’s been forced to go there, seeing no alternative.”
Calling Abbas’s UN bid “an act of survival,” Malley described it as “the most moderate expression of a general Palestinian frustration.”
The UN vote Thursday in favor of an “expression of a general Palestinian frustration” is likely to be all the more lopsided because it comes just days after rockets launched by the more militant Palestinians of Hamas were sailing toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.