Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday met with ambassadors and other Palestinian leaders attending the July 23-24 Palestinian Ambassador’s Conference in Istanbul, Turkey.
Among the topics of discussion were plans to seek UN membership for the State of Palestine at the upcoming meeting of the UN General Assembly this September.
Speaking at the event, President Abbas reiterated the necessity to seek UN membership due to the continued failure of negotiations with Israel on reaching a mutually desirable two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The latest negotiations stalled after an Israeli moratorium on settlement construction expired last year, prompting further Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.
Mr. Abbas expressed a willingness to resume talks with Israel despite the upcoming vote. The President stated that some outstanding issues could only be resolved through negotiations.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ardent political and ideological supporter of the Palestinian people and their push for statehood, also met with Abbas to discuss Turkish-Palestinian bilateral relations and current developments in the Middle East.
Mr. Erdogan is hardly alone in his support for Palestinian rights and statehood. Many nations have already recognized a Palestine defined by the 1967 borders, with wide agreement among the world’s nations that such borders constitute the basis for reaching a permanent agreement. The UN vote in September, if put before the General Assembly, would likely garner the two-thirds support it needs to pass. This would compound political and legal problem for Israel, further cementing its reputation as an occupier in Palestine.
The United States has the veto power as a member of the Security Council to block a vote on Palestinian UN membership. The United States has vetoed 11 UN Security Council Resolutions in the past 15 years pertaining to Israel-Palestine, continuing its longstanding policy of unconditional support for Israel.
Amidst the democratic waves of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, steady worldwide support for Palestinians and a growing frustration with peace talks that net little progress, the United States may find it difficult to continue such actions in the future. While the United States is likely to veto the September bid for Palestinian UN membership on Israel’s behalf, Israeli leaders remain worried nonetheless.
Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister stated earlier this year, “We are facing a diplomatic-political tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of and that will peak in September. It is a very dangerous situation, one that requires action. Paralysis, rhetoric, inaction will deepen the isolation of Israel.”
The US Congress sought to reaffirm its commitment to Israel by overwhelmingly passing House Resolution 268 and Senate Resolution 185 earlier this year. The respective resolutions declare Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations with Israel as a breach of a good faith commitment to peace negotiations that will have implications for continued United States aid. The resolutions also call upon the President to announce that the United States will veto any such Palestinian effort that comes before the United Nations Security Council.
The challenge for the Palestinian President and the leaders attending the Palestinian Ambassadors Conference is to develop a plan for mustering enough support from allies like Prime Minister Erdogan. The support of leaders throughout the Middle East, Europe and around the world is necessary to counter the influence of the United States and the Israel lobby. Public support is instrumental to gaining proper advantage, and the events of the Arab Spring have drawn additional attention to the plight of oppressed people in the Middle East. The momentum could finally be shifting in Palestine’s favor.