Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Thursday that the Palestinians will submit their U.N. bid on September 23 but are willing to weigh other diplomatic ideas in the meantime.
Envoys from the United States, the European Union and the diplomatic Quartet have been holding 11th-hour talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in an effort to get them back into direct peace talks that stalled a year ago.
“We will see if any of them is carrying a credible offer that will allow us to look into it seriously,” Malki told foreign journalists in Ramallah.
“Otherwise, on the 23rd at 12.30 (Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas) will submit the application.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he will address the U.N. General Assembly next week and call for a resumption of direct talks with the Palestinians.
“I have decided to convey these twin messages of direct negotiations for peace and the quest for peace,” Reuters reported Netanyahu as saying. “I’ve decided to take this message to the U.N. General Assembly when I speak there next week.”
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met Netanyahu on Wednesday and Thursday after holding talks with Abbas in Egypt.
Quartet envoy Tony Blair is in Jerusalem for meetings while U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale were to meet Abbas in Ramallah Thursday evening.
An EU statement on Wednesday quoted Ashton as saying her mission was to ensure that the Palestinians’ U.N. bid would ultimately lead to renewed negotiations with Israel.
“I hope that in the coming days what we’ll be able to achieve together will be something that enables the negotiations to start,” she said.
No details of her Thursday morning meeting with Netanyahu were immediately made public.
Little impact on occupation
If the Palestinian bid to secure U.N. membership is successful, it could strengthen their ability to fight for independence through U.N. bodies, international conventions and the courts, analysts say.
But it would have little practical impact in ending the Israeli occupation or letting Palestinians exercise sovereignty over lands they want for their future state, experts warn.
“Once we have a clear resolution that allocates the land of Palestine to its rightful people and speaks about the exact borders of this land, the whole dynamics will change. We will shift to a completely different level,” PLO official Ammar Hijazi told AFP.
“When you stand as a state before another state, it will allow you to use different mechanisms that were not available to you before,” he said.
But a paper by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) found that with Israel adamant that the only route to Palestinian independence is through peace negotiations − which have been on hold for nearly a year − a nascent Palestinian state’s ability “to realize its sovereignty will be limited.”
“According to the laws of occupation, statehood is irrelevant in deciding whether a territory is occupied or not,” the NGO said.
Even if the U.N. agreed to accept a Palestinian state as its 194th member, it would not have any practical application on the ground in terms of ending the occupation, it said.
But it could allow the Palestinians to seek redress for Israeli actions at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, with potentially dramatic implications for its settlements enterprise in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the ACRI document added.
One of the world court’s founding articles defines the transfer of population to an occupied territory as a war crime, the paper said.
“This means that the issue of settlements would become an issue of an international criminal tribunal, which would open the door to the prosecution of Israelis responsible for establishing or expanding settlements,” it explained.
The Palestinians will formally apply for U.N. membership for a Palestinian state when world leaders begin gathering in New York on September 20 for the 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly.
The attempt to have a Palestinian state accepted into the U.N. has been denounced by Israel as a unilateral move that undermines peace efforts, and Washington has vowed to block it in the Security Council.
The Palestinians are expected to first seek Security Council endorsement for full U.N. membership for a Palestinian state on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, incorporating the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
If Washington casts a veto, they will go to the General Assembly where they are likely to garner enough votes to upgrade their representation from an observer mission to a non-member state.
The final wording of the membership request is still being drafted and will be discussed at a meeting of Arab League representatives in Cairo on September 12.
Alan Baker, former legal counsel to the Israeli foreign ministry, says that even if the General Assembly endorses Palestinian statehood it will not be based on international criteria, which say that a state must be in control of its own territory.
Israeli officials also say the U.N. campaign would invalidate the Oslo Accords which set up the Palestinian Authority.
The Oslo Accords govern all the key issues of the conflict, such as borders, Jerusalem, the Jewish settlements, the fate of the Palestinian refugees and other central issues.