Barack Obama 'will veto' Palestinian UN bid


President Obama says there can be "no short cut" to a lasting peace

Barack Obama has told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas he will veto his bid for UN membership, as he tried to persuade him to drop the plans.

But Mahmoud Abbas vowed to press ahead during a meeting with the US president, the White House said afterwards.

Mr Obama had told the UN General Assembly a Palestinian state could only be achieved through talks with Israel.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned a veto could spark another cycle of violence in the region.

Diplomatic efforts for Palestinian UN membership have intensified, with Mr Abbas preparing to submit a written application to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Friday.

Thousands of people rallied in the West Bank on Wednesday in support of the move.

'Badge of honour'

If Mr Ban approves the request, the Security Council will examine it and vote on it. In order to pass, it would need the backing of nine out of 15 council members, with no vetoes from the permanent members.

However, Mr Obama had indicated the US will use its veto, leaving Western diplomats trying to find ways to put off the voting process to buy more time.


The contradictions of American policy towards the Middle East have been on display.

In his speech, President Obama praised the way Arabs in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia had seized their freedom. But even with the prospect of the US vetoing the Palestinian UN bid, the Palestinians are claiming some victories - they've put the issue of their independence back on the international agenda.

The president's speech was as much about the politics of his own re-election bid next year as it was about the politics of making peace.

His leading Republican opponent has accused him of appeasing the Palestinians. Mr Obama said nothing that Israel and its friends would not like.

That may well be good for the Israeli government. It isn't necessarily good for Middle East peace.

And the US president made his position clear to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mr Abbas during meetings late on Wednesday.

"We would have to oppose any action at the UN Security Council including, if necessary, vetoing," White House national security council spokesman Ben Rhodes said after Mr Obama met Mr Abbas.

Mr Netanyahu told reporters that Mr Obama deserved a "badge of honour" for his defence of Israel.

However, senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath argued that Palestinian UN membership was "morally, legally and politically acceptable in every way".

Mr Sarkozy urged a compromise, suggesting the General Assembly give the Palestinians enhanced status as a non-member state to allow a clear timeline for talks - a month to start negotiations, six months to deal with borders and security and a year to finalise a "definitive agreement".

A vote on enhanced status - enjoyed by others such as the Vatican - would not require a Security Council recommendation but a simple majority in the General Assembly, where no veto is possible.

Failed talks

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said any UN vote on the issue was in any case "several weeks" away.

Mr Obama had earlier told the General Assembly: "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN.

"There is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades.

Palestinian UN membership bid

  • Palestinians currently have permanent observer entity status at the UN
  • They are represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)
  • Officials now want an upgrade so a state of Palestine has full member status at the UN
  • They seek recognition on 1967 borders - in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza
  • Enhanced observer member status could be an interim option

"Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians - not us - who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem."

Palestinians say their bid for statehood has been inspired by the Arab Spring, and is the result of years of failed peace talks.

In the West Bank on Wednesday, schools and government offices were shut to allow for demonstrations backing the UN membership bid in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron.

While UN recognition would have largely symbolic value, the Palestinians argue it would strengthen their hand in peace talks.

Mr Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said after Mr Obama's speech: "The end of the Israeli occupation and a Palestinian state are the only path to peace.

"We will agree to return to the negotiations the minute that Israel agrees to end the settlements and the lines of 1967."

In his meeting with Mr Obama, Mr Netanyahu said direct negotiation was the only way to achieve a stable Middle East peace. The last round of talks broke down a year ago.

The "quartet" of US, European, Russian and UN mediators aims to give the two sides a year to reach a framework agreement, based on Mr Obama's vision of borders fashioned from Israel's pre-1967 boundary, with agreed land swaps.

Efforts are now reportedly under way to provide a basis for resumed peace negotiations, but work by mediators has yet to produce guidelines for the resumption of talks.


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Israel and the Palestinians


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  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Everything I've read tells me that its Israel's land since 1200 BCE"
    So you would support a claim by Egypt to part of Sudan on the grounds it was the Upper Kingdom of the Nile in the time of the Pharaohs from 3150 BCE?
    The UK makes no claim to Northern France which was part of the realm until the 14th Century(in the case of Calais, the 16th).
    Time marches on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Since the creation of israel, there has been a succession of US presidents who have miserably failed to achieve anything.More negotiation will allow israel to snatch more land and built even more settlements and carry out its routine ethnic cleansing courtesy of the EU,US and UN.This is the DOUBLE standard that the world has been witnessing for some decades now, yet the talk about peace in the M.E

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    If you look at nearly every international organisation intended to keep the peace, you'll see the US always has their say in how it is run, but never actually commits themselves to obeying it. They just use them as a tool for expanding (or rather desperately trying to maintain) their influence. They talk about 'unilateral action' and then announce this. Time to drop the veto or kick them out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Land for peace never works!!! Politicians have short memories since the Israeli withdraw from Gaza & over 4000 Katyusha rockets later when will we learn that the Arabs mean what they say and will settle for nothing less than the destruction of Israel.To give up any more land would be suicide the Arabs cannot be trusted to keep any sort of agreement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    From the UN CCPR, General Comment 12 (1984): "The Committee considers that history has proved that the realization of and respect for the right of self-determination of peoples contributes to the establishment of friendly relations and cooperation between States and to strengthening international peace and understanding."

    Except when it might upset Israel?

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    Remember US independence on 4th July, 1776 was fought with many blood and lives. Many countries achieved their independence through the same method. Palestinians are fighting their independence through UN application and negotiation. Maybe their only way to get their independence is through war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Yes We Can turned into No You Can't

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.


    you saying that Palestinians have to pay the price because some Arab countries didn't recognise Israel? kidding me? what's that got to do with Israel occupying their land!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    nonnamei #24 wrote: "What I'm confused about (maybe some one can help me out here) is what is so wrong with Palestine becoming an internationally recognized State?"

    Good question considering that 70% Israelis say that the UN's decision should be accepted.

    Well, the answer is American evangelicals who would crucify any US President who asks the Israeli govt. to behave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    If President Obama spent as much effort in pressurising Israel to halt settlement construction as he did pressurising the Palestinians to not seek Statehood via the UN, we might be nearing the end of the I-P conflict.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Oh brother where art thou?

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Could anyone remember South Sudan Nation being created in the last 12 months with the blessings of UN? Or I am losing my grey matter?

    I am totally disappointed with Barrack Obama, he has lost all his credibility in the international stage.

    It looks very desperate and pathetic by US. It is case of tail wagging the dog!

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    I find it interesting and telling that the editor picked comment number 260 (the bankers part)

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    I find the comments about 'Palestinians accepting Israel" a bit old hat; the PLO did this years ago.

    Perhaps the next step now is for Israel to accept existence of Palestine as a people and state...

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    Here is a scenario. In a few years time Iran starts waving its nuclear weapons around, so Israel has to flatten it. The whole ME goes up in smoke - end of story.
    Now let's turn our attention to Zimbabwe, North Korea and Scotland.
    Why? Why not. Makes as much sense as this conversation so far.

  • Comment number 376.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    It is about time the world does something about Palestine and Israel, that's why although i agree with Obama that for peace there is not short cut, in this situation it has been too long. Action is needed instantly and Palestine should give Ban Ki Mon the draft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    The US states that Palestine and Israel need to work out their differences themselves and then steps in and unilaterally veto's the Palestinian attempt to achieve global consensus. I feel sorry for the average US citizen who probably supports Palestinian statehood and now must suffer the consequences of a leadership which is completely isolated with regards to this position on the world stage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Oh dear.
    It looks like the Arab spring has run into a US backed winter.

    At least with this impending veto there are now zero doubts about where allegiances lie for future conflicts.
    The festering wound called the middle east should have been sorted out decades ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Shame on Obama and shame on us as Britiain is going to abstain too. It's about time we stopped hanging onto America's apron strings!


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