Abbas Sets Date for Palestinian Authority UN Status Upgrade Bid
Amid growing opposition from Israel and the U.S., Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas said he agreed with Arab League foreign ministers, with whom he met in Cairo late Monday, that the PA’s application to upgrade from observer to non-member state status in the United Nations will be presented to the UN for a Nov. 29 vote.
The Palestinians failed to gain UN statehood last year after the U.S. threatened to veto the initiative in the UN Security Council. However, this year the Palestinians only need to gain a simple majority in the UN General Assembly, where the U.S. does not have veto power. Analysts expect the Palestinians to easily achieve that.
The U.S. feels that the unilateral move could undermine revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. According to the Wall Street Journal, the upgraded status could allow the Palestinians to join several UN agencies and treaties, which would enable the Palestinians to claim sovereignty over airspace and territorial waters currently under Israeli control. More troubling for Israel, the Palestinians could also bring charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Abbas is pushing ahead with the vote despite serious economic concerns back home. The PA has had troubling paying its estimated 170,000 employees on time and faces a $260 million financing shortfall as foreign donor aid has dried up, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
But as a result of its unilateral UN efforts, the PA may also face additional economic hardship. Israel and the U.S. have threatened to withhold tax revenue and foreign aid if the PA pushes ahead. “We will not collect their taxes for them and we will not transfer their tax revenues,” said Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Israel collects taxes for the PA as part of the Oslo Accords.
Not all Palestinians are behind the statehood effort. Ironically, Hamas—the terrorist group that controls Gaza – is opposed to the UN move, viewing such efforts as fruitless and instead preferring violence to achieve its objectives against Israel.