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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  • Comment number 411.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    The first step to peace would be if all of us stopped using the word 'Zionist'. It gives the impression that ancient religious conflicts are relevant to world affairs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    Israel wants peace. A piece of Palestine today, another piece tommorrow, the rest later. Sadly US politicians are too weak or corrupt to stand up to their thugs. The US has bankrupted itself financially and morally losing goodwill on the international stage and shedding blood of it's youth. Time to give up this sordid one way affair. Israel doesn't love you, it's just using you to get Palestine!

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Though eloquent, Barack Obama's speech at the UN lacks substance and is far from being convincing! Yes it is hard to achieve global peace! The price to pay is huge (morally speaking). As things stand now, neither Israel, nor the US, are ethically equipped to be able to afford it. Mr. President, can you look a Palestinian
    child in the eye while delivering your bunch of empty promises to him/her?!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    251 Ishnyakh
    then what brought Jews to Palestine, weren't the UN statements and resolutions ???!!!
    For >3k years there were continuously Jews in Israel. Jews returned from the diaspora before the UN existed, notably in the 1930s.

    You may not like it, but God brought them back. He talked about their return in the Bible more than 2,000 years previously. That’s also why no one can remove Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Callum, so you think the UN should be blackmailed into accepting the Palestinian bid by the possibility of violence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    Israel unilaterally declared statehood in 1948. That was allowed then, so why not the Palestinians now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    359 swerdna
    … Jerusalem is the centre for the 3 Abrahamic religions...
    Mecca is by far the main centre of Islam (destination of the Haj, praying towards Mecca, etc.). Christianity has no formal centre, though Roman Catholics might consider Vatican City their centre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Think about this: the Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority has admitted that NO Palestinian "refugees" will become citizens of the new state, or have any rights. This applies to "refugees" already in the West Bank or in Jordan, Lebanon etc.
    How can one be a refugee in your own country? Please explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    @365 That's the problem, it's not equal justice at all, one country has all land and freedom, while if your born in Palestine, your already born a prisoner!

    Until this is fixed, there can be no moving forward, Israel and the U.S. are finally being seen by the world for what they truely are,

    one's a hypocrite and the others a warmonger, as to which is which, I'll leave that open for debate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    The American veto would be a right decision because it is only through talking together that lasting peace will prevail between Israel and Palestine and no amount of interference or 'do-gooding' by third parties will help, long-term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    George W Bush was despised, distrusted, and even hated by a great many people - but he never tried to be liked, and he "won" two terms (albeit the first one a tad dubiously).
    By comparison, Obama is trying to be liked by everyone, and is likely to win only one term.
    Not sure what it says, other than you knew exactly where you were with George W. Obama risks being seen as a u-turning waster

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Last night the higest rated comment was something like:

    "It's like America asking for independence in 1776, but only if Britain allows it"

    it had nearly 100 likes, funny how when I look this morning, it's nowhere to be seen!, either the BBC is taking their usual pro-Israeli stance and edited or removed it, or 3/4 of the Israeli population happen to live in a U.S. timezone and voted it down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    The British and the Irish have sorted out their thousand year old differences."

    Very true. But I suspect if we'd carpet bombed Dublin after the Brighton Bomb or the rocket attacks on 10 Downing Street, or crossed the border to inflict punishment after every bomb attack such as Omagh and Enniskillen, we would have found patching up those differences to be very elusive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Certain lack of logic here! Israel moved all Israelis out of Gaza and what did they get for it - thousands of rockets and the genocidal Hamas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Well there's a surprise, the USA backing Israel regardless, whatever next - The Tories abolishing the 50% tax rate & cutting benefits for the terminally ill - Surely not, that nice Mr Cameron wouldn't be so heartless would he??

    It's the moral hypocrisy which turns my stomach

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    So nothing changes and all OBama has is double talk. What he has said is that effectively it must be on Isreal's terms. Shame on them. For 60 years the excuse has been the state of Israel which is just a holiday home for many Americans and Brits. Does Israel have oil? America could do with the dollarage at home and we could use the Sterling here. Where does that leave Israel if we pull the plug?

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    The USA have no obvious reason to veto this motion except for the lust of the Israeli dollar. The Palestinian people have a right to be recognised. Obama is being forced to protect the aggresive and hostile state of Israel.
    Mr Sarkozy does offer a compromise which could work for now.
    The Israeli state can not be allowed to continue their illegal war on Palestine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Your first comment, referring to Jewish bankers and Arab oil, may be well intentioned by aiming to criticize two interests, but both imply simplistic racist tropes, that don't help the issue. Most Arabs have no oil, are poor and have lived under sometimes brutal and definitely repressive regimes. The regimes have the oil. Jewish bankers is an old slur.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    305. Ben In response to None01:
    "One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter."

    Quite right. Remember Menachem Begin from 1944 onwards, prior to becoming Isarael's leader, and his record after that, too e.g. the Falklands war.

    Try this for another "history lesson" on the wonders of Israel's democracy


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