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Europeans bolster Palestinian bid at the UN (+video)

Support from the Europeans for Palestinian non-member 'state' status may derive partly from concern that Palestinians would view missiles, not diplomacy, as the way to sway Israel.

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Abbas, in a rare interview on Israeli TV last year, said it had been a mistake for the Arab world to reject the 1947 partition plan, which would have given the Palestinians far more land than they have today. In 1988, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accepted a state based on the 1967 lines, which amounts to 22 percent of historic Palestine, but such a state has yet to be negotiated.

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Peace talks have been stalled for two years, with Palestinians refusing to come back to the table until Israel again freezes the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, increasingly encroaching on the territory intended for a Palestinian state.

Israel, which has repeatedly invited the Palestinians to resume negotiations with no preconditions, opposes the UN bid as a unilateral move that is not in the spirit of peacemaking. Two key Israeli concerns are the state’s ability to maintain security under any eventual peace deal, and a fear that Palestinians will try to use a state along 1967 borders as a springboard for reestablishing sovereignty over all of historic Palestine.

“None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning, speaking at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. “The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties directly; through valid negotiations between themselves, and not through UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.”

Financial threats

Israel, which collects tax revenues on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, has threatened to punish the Palestinian leadership financially if it goes ahead with the UN vote. The US, which gives roughly half a billion dollars per year to the cash-strapped PA, has also threatened to withhold aid. (For more on Israel's push against the UN bid, read our Monitor briefing.)

But Palestinians, who see few other viable options for gaining leverage over Israel, say that their right to self-determination is not up for negotiation. Their resolution does call, however, for negotiation on all outstanding core issues – including security, borders, Palestinian refugees, and more – to be resolved according to previous UN resolutions, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and the Quartet road map.

“Israeli behavior is what is mine is mine, and what is yours is up to negotiation,” says Xavier Abu Eid of the PLO’s negotiation affairs department. But given the expansion of Israeli settlements, which are turning the West Bank into a piece of Swiss cheese unsuitable for establishing a state, the Palestinians can’t afford to wait much longer.

“If you stole my apple and the whole world says that you stole my apple, and even you say that this apple may not be yours,” says Mr. Abu Eid, referring to the Israelis, “and you are telling me, yes, I want to give your apple back, but you are eating my apple … by the time that you decide to give me back my apple, I am not going to have anything. It will be too late."

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