A year after the Palestinians went to the United Nations with a historic bid for state membership, president Mahmud Abbas is going back with a trimmed down request for recognition.
With the quest for full membership stalled, Abbas will instead ask the General Assembly to elevate the Palestinians from observer status to that of a U.N. non-member state.
He is expected to officially launch the campaign after addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told journalists last week.
“We want Palestine back on the map, on the 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as its capital, carried by 150 to 170 nations,” Erakat said.
The Palestinians have long sought to have the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War -- when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem -- as the basis for border negotiations with Israel.
To be adopted, the resolution seeking non-member status must be approved by a majority of votes from the 194 members of the General Assembly, which the Palestinians are expected to easily secure.
The Palestinians say they have not abandoned last year's bid for full U.N. membership, but that request remains stuck in the 15-member Security Council, where they have been unable to win over a majority.
The United States, a veto-wielding Council member, has made clear its opposition to the bid, which Israel has also vehemently denounced.
But in the year since the much-hyped request, Abbas has seen key assets -- including international praise for his government's institution-building efforts, and a reconciliation deal with rival group Hamas -- come under threat.
And that has made the initially unappealing prospect of non-state membership through the General Assembly increasingly attractive.
Membership would give the Palestinians access to international organizations like the World Health Organization and perhaps the International Criminal Court.
The renewed bid for expanded U.N. membership comes at a difficult time for Abbas’s government, which controls the West Bank, but not the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the rival Islamist Hamas movement.
The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have praised the state-building efforts of Abbas’s government, led by prime minister Salam Fayyad.
But this year, both institutions warned the gains were fragile and at risk, pointing to protests over the spiraling cost of living in the West Bank.
Fayyad’s government is experiencing a major financial crisis, which has left it unable to meet payroll on several occasions, and international institutions have said Israeli restrictions are choking the possibility for growth.
“The two state solution is in jeopardy if the PA is not able to continue to function and prepare for the two-state solution,” Palestinian finance minister Nabil Kassis said after a meeting of donor nations at the U.N. headquarters on Sunday.
And implementation of a reconciliation deal with Hamas signed in April 2011, which was aimed at paving the way for a caretaker cabinet which would organize legislative and presidential elections, has ground to a complete halt.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers have criticised the fresh U.N. bid, with spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri describing it as “unilateral measure without national agreement.”
“Abbas has not consulted the Palestinian movements on this momentous step,” he told AFP.
The move is, once again, expected to spur Israeli and U.S. opposition, but while the Palestinian leadership is aware that the initiative carries “many, many risks, there are few other alternatives,” Erakat said.
“We have a closed political horizon” on negotiations with Israel, he said.
“We have a closed door on reconciliation... We are unable to pay salaries because many nations, including the United States, withheld our budgetary support. So we have an overloaded wagon of complexities.”
Although Abbas will ask for upgraded membership in his speech, the resolution itself will be formally presented to the U.N. at a later date by a third party -- possibly by the Arab bloc -- after which there will be a vote.
The Palestinians acknowledge the timing could be influenced by the U.S. presidential vote on November 6, without saying whether they will push for upgraded membership before the elections, or wait until afterwards in the hopes of securing U.S. backing.
Gaining non-member status is worth the risk, Erakat said.
“Palestine will have access to membership in all international agencies,” he said.
“When Palestine gains the status of non-member state, no Israeli can argue that these are disputed territories,” he added.
“All the actions of Israel, fait accompli on the ground... will become null and void, including the annexation of east Jerusalem.”