NEW YORK – The United Nations Security Council is set to discuss a Palestinian bid for statehood today, after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas submitted a formal application at the General Assembly on Friday.
Addressing the delegates on Friday, Abbas urged the Security Council to back a state with pre-1967 borders. “The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland,” he said, according to the BBC.
In a later speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the General Assembly that the core of the conflict was not settlements but the refusal of the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. He proposed that peace talks begin immediately and reaffirmed Israeli’s stance that peace cannot come through UN resolutions.
The United States has said it will veto the bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state if it comes to a Security Council vote.
The move was welcomed by Palestinians with celebrations on Saturday, while Israelis reacted with a mix of hope and concern over the request, according to Voice of America.
Arabic language newspapers praised Abbas’ speech, saying it had bolstered Palestinian hopes for statehood as well as his popularity. But most of the Hebrew language newspapers said the UN bid will have little consequence since the Palestinians are not likely to drop their conditions for resuming peace talks which have been on hold for nearly a year.
After the move, the Quartet of mediators – the US, the UN, the European Union and Russia – called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks within one month and aim for a deal by the end of 2012. Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled in September 2010. The Palestinians walked out in protest at the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
But Abbas has reacted coolly to the blueprint for talks. Abbas said he was studying the so-called Middle East Quartet’s idea for peace talks to open within a month, but ruled out any plan that did not demand an end to Israeli settlement building.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Saturday that the Quartet guideline could not be accepted as it was “short of meeting Palestinian expectations,” CNN said. Malki stressed that the offer failed to address the issue of Israeli settlements and the 1967 borders.
But Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Liberman yesterday expressed his support for the offer. “We need to accept because there is one very positive thing there, starting negotiations without prior conditions, we have been calling for this for two and a half years now,” Liberman told Israel radio.