Palestinians forge ahead with UN statehood push. Are they ready?
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas yesterday confirmed a push to seek full membership at the UN as a sovereign state. But despite support for recent Palestinian Authority reforms, the UN move could backfire.
Hebron, West Bank
Between tightly packed meetings with foreign diplomats, local clan leaders, and manufacturers, Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily offers visitors a glossy booklet detailing the achievements of the West Bank's largest city.Skip to next paragraph
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A former tycoon, he has brought a business mentality to Hebron's bureaucracy, introducing new programs that have streamlined operations.
"This is the foundation of the state," he beams.
On the first floor of the municipality building, a row of tellers sit behind flat-panel displays – Hebron's "one-stop shop" for citizen services, as he calls it, which has reduced processing time by about two-thirds. One floor up, the municipality's chief for water resources boasts that a new computerized monitoring system cuts down on wasted water.
Beyond the confines of the municipal building, work is being completed on a new community center and school, a project financed by South Korea.
"We are better than many other countries already," says Mayor Osaily.
Indeed, the whir of activity in Hebron is part of a broader Palestinian Authority (PA) initiative to demonstrate that the building blocks of independence are in place ahead of a key United Nations vote on Palestinian membership.
Yesterday PA President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed that Palestinians will seek full membership as a sovereign state when the UN General Assembly convenes in New York on Sept. 20. His announcement, at a press conference in Ramallah, rebuffed a last-minute American diplomatic effort to persuade Mr. Abbas to call off the UN statehood campaign, which the US and Israel have characterized as a unilateral move that bypasses years of peace talks. The US has threatened to withhold its $550 million in annual aid and veto any vote in the UN Security Council on Palestinian membership.
As Mr. Abbas forges ahead despite such threats, even some Palestinians aren't convinced that the PA's building blocks can support a stand-alone country just yet – and say that pushing for the UN to take action is therefore premature and potentially detrimental to Palestinians.