August 6, 2012

Palestine's Bid for Statehood Status Would Find Majority Support in the United Nations

Of all the obstacles blocking the way to peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, the status of Jerusalem is arguably the most intractable. For Israelis, all of the city, including East Jerusalem and its West Bank suburbs captured in 1967, is their "eternal and indivisible" capital, the home the Jews dreamed of through 2,000 years of exile, and the site of their revered Western Wall. For Palestinians, there can be no peace until Israel cedes them control over East Jerusalem, a symbol of their national struggle and home to Islam's third holiest site, al-Aqsa mosque and the glittering Dome of the Rock.

In the absence of a deal, or even meaningful negotiations, Israel has been busy developing the holy city, building impressive, stone-clad neighbourhoods across the annexed land in defiance of constant international criticism. Israeli officials are also pushing to expand the nearby settlements of Gilo and Har Homa, thereby building a broad, concrete crescent just north of the hilltop town of Bethlehem.

Some 35 percent of Palestinian economic activity is centered on a line that stretches from Bethlehem through East Jerusalem and on to Ramallah, the West Bank's administrative centre, north of Jerusalem. Critics say the southern settlements will snap this link.
"It is like putting a ribbon around a finger and pulling tighter and tighter until all the blood is cut off," said Ashraf Khatib, a Palestinian activist from East Jerusalem.

"But it is not just in the south. The Israelis are creating facts on the ground across the eastern city," he added.
A proud exponent of that policy is Aryeh King, the founder of the Israeli Land Fund whose stated mission is to "reclaim the land of Israel for the people of Israel".
"We are locating property in all of East Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, every piece of land is important. All the plots put together can change the reality," said King."The reality we don't want to see happen is one that we think would lead to catastrophe - the division of the city."
Jews, from Biblical kings such as David and Solomon to present day Israelis, see Jerusalem as the home of their religion and as a national capital fit for their people. Most Israelis dismiss accusations their presence in East Jerusalem is illegal and bridle at the term "settlement" to describe what they refer to as Jewish neighbourhoods.[Source]

Israel Sees UN Majority for Palestine Status Upgrade

August 5, 2012

The Palestinians' bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations would find majority support there but would not bring them closer to statehood and peace with Israel, Israel's U.N. envoy said on Sunday.

Citing stalled peacemaking and Israeli settlement-building on occupied West Bank land where they seek sovereign independence, the Palestinians said on Saturday they would renew a bid to win U.N. recognition as a state.

Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, accused the Palestinians of trying to recapture international attention that has shifted to crises in Iran, Egypt and Syria.
"There is an attempt (by the Palestinians) to make unilateral moves in order to internationalize the conflict," Prosor told Israel Radio in a telephone interview.
"But beyond what are perhaps the feelings of frustration, it is important to remember that the path to peace really is through the negotiating table with Israel."
The Palestinians want to found a state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which Israel captured in the 1967 war. Though Israel quit Gaza in 2005, it claims East Jerusalem as its capital - a move not recognized abroad - and says it would keep swathes of West Bank settlements under any peace deal. The United Nations deems the settlements illegal.

Full U.N. membership for Palestine would require approval by the Security Council, where Israel's ally, the United States, would likely wield its veto given its demand the Palestinians set up their state in agreement with the Jewish state.

So the Palestinians, in what they describe as an interim move, plan to ask the U.N. General Assembly next month to accord them non-member observer status, which would allow them to join a number of U.N. agencies and the International Criminal Court.

The Palestinians are currently a U.N. observer "entity" with no voting rights. A similar statehood upgrade drive last year proved short-lived amid financial sanctions and diplomatic counter-lobbying by Israel and the United States.

Prosor said the Palestinians have a "guaranteed majority" in the 193-member General Assembly - enough to bestow non-member observer status, which the envoy predicted would be used "to hurt us (Israel)" in various international forums.

Israel has accused Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of going to the United Nations to evade negotiations that would entail both territorial compromise and that he reassert control over Gaza, which he lost in a 2007 civil war to Hamas Islamists hostile to the Jewish state.
"In essence, Abu Mazen (Abbas) today has zero control in Gaza," Prosor said in separate remarks to Israel's Army Radio, adding that the Palestinians' U.N. campaign "will change nothing on the ground".
Palestinians have made a freeze on Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem a condition for returning to peace talks. Israel cites biblical and historical ties to the areas and says the settlement issue should be decided in negotiations.

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