Palestinians win upgrade to 'state ' at UN. What does that change? (+video)
The UN General Assembly's 138-to-9 vote officially put 'Palestine' together with 'state' for the first time. But it appeared to offer little practical change. Even Palestinians called it part of a 'process.'
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But other Israeli officials suggested Israel would not sit by and would take action in response to what they said was a violation of the Palestinians’ international obligations.Skip to next paragraph
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In Washington, some members of Congress were already gearing up to push for funding cuts to both the Palestinians and the UN.
In the Senate, one proposed amendment to the defense authorization bill currently under debate would deny the Palestinian Authority any US assistance if the PA decided to use its enhanced status to take claims against Israel to the International Criminal Court – an institution it would have access to as a UN observer state. Another proposed amendment, authored by Republican senators, would cut Palestinian and UN funding in the event of enhanced UN status – and would also cut aid to any countries that voted for the change.
Opponents of any cuts in US funding to the Palestinian Authority say such action would ultimately benefit Hamas by punishing those Palestinians – such as West Bank Palestinian security forces – who cooperate with Israel and as a result enhance its security.
“These plainly non-germane amendments gravely threaten Israeli security and essential US interests by hobbling the viability of the Palestinian Authority to the benefit of Hamas and other extremists,” the J Street “pro-Israel, pro-peace” advocacy group said in a statement.
Congressional supporters of retaliation for the new “state” status view the Palestinian initiative as an attempt to unilaterally bypass negotiations with Israel to achieve statehood. But Palestinian leaders like Dr. Ashrawi, who spoke from Ramallah on a conference call with reporters arranged by Washington’s Institute for Middle East Understanding, say Palestinians acted because they gained nothing from over 20 years of negotiations.
“This does not contradict or conflict with negotiations,” she said, describing the new status as “a stand against nonproductive and counterproductive negotiations.”
Abbas suggested before Thursday’s vote that enhanced status could open the way to direct talks with Israel. That was taken by some Middle East analysts as a hint that Abbas might drop his “preconditions” for direct talks, which have included a freeze on Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian lands.
But in her comments Thursday, Ashrawi indicated the ball would still be in Israel’s court to pave the way for a return to negotiations – which she said would have to have set parameters and a fixed timeline.
Ashrawi also said that the first priority for Palestinians after Thursday’s vote would be reconciliation between Hamas and the West Bank-ruling Fatah. She lauded as a “very heartening” sign of “unity” the support Hamas leaders threw behind the UN status initiative.
As for threats to Palestinian financing over Thursday’s vote, Ashrawi said Palestinian leaders did not welcome any cuts, but had nevertheless put out feelers to sympathetic Arab countries about a possible “safety net” of emergency funding in the event of monetary reprisals.