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 431.

    Israel has been committing genocide against the Palestinian people for over 40 years. Palestine IS a country and as such should be recognised as such. Israel has continued to land-grab whilst murdering innocents every day. We have bombed Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya for less murderous acts than those carried out daily by Israel

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    If the US believes that Palestinians should not be granted UN recognition and should settle their issues directly with Israel, then shouldn't Israel's recognistion as a state at the UN also be revoked till the time that both Israelis and Palestinians have reached a solution?

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    396. Dancin Pagan The Mad Kiltie

    Ye gods! Some people cannot comment on a matter as serious as this without taking a pop at Cameron at the same time.
    You turn my stomach!

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

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

    Apart from the Palestinians' long and distinguished use of terror against civilians. That dates from the 1920's, includes endless massacres and outrages perpetrated by Fatah and Black September and goes on to this very day, courtesy of Islamic Jihad and friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    It is the natural right of all nations to enjoy the human rights and respect of other nations, the UN has the job of monitoring and supporting world peace. Palestine shoudn't even need this vote, the UN should be sending peacekeepers into Palestine to secure its state and infrastructure and peace, thereby creating a climate of stablility and progress, which Israel would be forced to accept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Add your comment...where are the human & democratic values of Americans & Europeans? a people suffering under occupation for 63 years?
    Is the American veto a democracy in the UN??
    Please ask yourselves, who ever you are, would you trust occupiers after 63 years of failed negotiations?
    how does UN recognition hurt Isreal's security?
    Why this injustice to Palestinians, come on be human

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Problems getting through the moderators, I will have to change direction. Bad news for Palestine; they deserve a state, don't we all. Israel is wrong and must allow peace. Abbas has a record of peaceful intentions towards Israel and this must be recognised. The Israelis are behaving very far right wing in all this. Republicans are calling for US aid to Palestinians to be withdrawn. This is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    The US veto would merely confirm its positon in the Middle East, a need to perpetuate the struggle thus maintaining influence in the region. Whilst past negotiations have failed, an application for UN membership would appear a logical step in creating a level playing field in any future peace talks. The US, as usual, are making their loyalties quite clear, alas, where is the surprise in that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Its a disgrace, I am sick and tired of this. This decision will come back to haunt the Americans, why can they just not butt out and get on with their own problems, Obama is a disgrace and its a real stab in the back the Palestinians. Shame on the USA for such a move

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    399. sidmaui
    "Last night the higest rated comment...had nearly 100 likes..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."

    I think your fears are unfounded. That was a different article / Post Session!
    Interesting view on bias, though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.


    So something which could contribute to the Peace process is blocked? Why?

    Do the USA & Israel really want a peace agreement?

    I don’t believe they do.

    All the actions, including continuing settlements on the Palestinian territories (as defined by International law), and the USA donating ~$7bn p/a to Israel suggest they don’t care about Palestine or the Palestinian Arabs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    332 lizistrata
    … the US supports Palestine authority with 500million a year, Israel supports it with 200million$ a MONTH! so yeah the money flows, and to Egypt and Jordan as well, where would these economies be without it? they would be funded by Iran, like hamas hizbola Syria.
    Interesting that some have rated this comment down but I have not seen one rebuttal.

    If it’s true, accept it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    @nelson_chipped 378 The 2 ruling groups haven’t agreed amongst themselves yet !

    Speaking in Gaza, Hamas PM Haniyeh said “There is no mandate for any Palestinian leadership to infringe on Palestinian national rights"...."foremost among them the right of return,” was quoted by AFP as saying. “Given this position, we reiterate our rejection of this bid,”

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    What Obama doesn't like is to have the USA's real position as "Big Israel" in the context of Middle Eastern politics "smoked out", to coin a phrase. Given its history, America has no moral right to veto the Palestinians' applicaion for statehood. Oh the Futility of Hope!

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    The US/Israel axis are on the verge of strangling any chance for progress in the Middle East once again. Listen out for T. Blair with his weasel words once Netanyahu and Obama have finished writing his speech.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    What's the point in coercing them into more talks? Change the record USA, talks have repeatedly failed and Israel continues to oppress the Palestininan people. Even then they're talking about a year before talks could start because they need a framework!! It's like groundhog day. Just get on with it or give them full membership. Talk about procrastinating, meanwhile Israel continues to invade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    The only long term solution has to be a two state system. However, until all factions involved on the Palestinian side acknowledge the right of Israel to exist nothing will move forward. There is just as much intransigence on their side as the US and Israel. Somebody needs to knock all their heads together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    340 and 345 outhousemouse:

    I agree with what you're saying 100%. However, may I respectfully ask you to consider not using caps lock? To me, it comes across as shouting. Thanks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    @182. LucyJ

    Why roll human geography back to an arbitrary moment in history? If it was "Israel's first", do you also suggest getting all the Europeans out of North America and Australasia? Getting the English out of Britain and giving it back to the Celts? And don't forget Israel took the land by force of arms in 1200 BC anyway, so why not give it back to the people who were there before them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    Disgusting: Tony Blair - the Middle East 'envoy', the guy that did so much damage in the Midd East. Obama, a President of 'fairness', these people have nothing, victimised by Isreal and all you is kick them down when trying to do something for themselves. Sarcozy is right, we will all suffer for this, you had a chance to correct 40 years of bad foriegn policy. Who really runs the USA? Tel Aviv!


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