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.


More on This Story

Israel and the Palestinians


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    we are only told want we need to know.
    palestine is a pawn within the middle east. it brings sympothy towards the palestinian people which the sorounding countries lap it up like water in a hot desert. a 2 state soloution will not happen as the pros do not out weigh the cons. israel will anex the settlements it has made in the westbank even though they are illegal under un law. un has failed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    What I want to know is when the Romany gypsies who lost more percentage wise of their population during the holocaust, and who continue to suffer extensive persecution today, are getting their state. And where will it be?

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    Well, to go against the tide here. I am pleased that Obama is prepared to use the veto. I am sure his inevitable successor would do the same. Sorry I will have to withold any arguments, as I see what is required in these comments. However, just record one dissenting voice please.

  • Comment number 468.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    #413 Flats I would take it further and just give the entire world back to Ethiopia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    When it comes to the Arab World and the Palestinian cause, America's trend of getting it wrong every time is pretty impressive. This was Obama's chance to make a historical difference, but as predicted, he uses the Veto. Its a shame to see Americas best president in decades deny the Palestinians their legitimate right to statehood. There will not be peace in the face of such blatant injustices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    369. grisgris
    ...a unilateral decalration is nto the answer. indeed, it would be a breach of the Oslo protocols and thereby permit Israel to formally annex swathes of settlements.

    Where have you been living since the Oslo accord was signed? Israel has and continues to annex parts of the West Bank via settlement building. It is Israel who never implemented the agreements of Oslo.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464. must be right
    30 Minutes ago
    332 lizistrata

    I completely agree. I mentioned this figure but was moderated out. Maybe I could say that if the Palestinians want to show their dissatisfaction they should refuse this money from their enemies and oppressors.
    Very poor discussion here - all predictably one sided..

  • Comment number 463.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    So now we know: the World's 'Policeman' is controlled from Jerusalem!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    410.Will Holmes
    "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."

    They are. It's part of the reason the US supports Israel, the reason Israel exists, it's written into Hamas' and Hezbollah's constitutions, it centres around a core city in monotheism.

  • Comment number 460.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Another example of how it is quite easy for a well-financed minority lobby - in this case the Israeli lobby - to hijack US policy and divert it from the interest of the American people - who would be well-served by full Palestinian membership of the UN.

    Likely to reoccur unless the US improves its electoral and campaign finance arrangements and stops selling its democracy to the highest bidder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    The US will always defend Israel. Israel is their buffer state to control the oil producing regions of the middle east. Once Israel goes, control of the region becomes a lot more risky.

    If the Arab states take control of the oil, they will lose their economic advantage over the rest of the world because they will lose control of oil production. This is not about the Jews its about power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    It is time for the UN to be re-organised.
    1. The right of Veto should be abolished!
    2. The Security Council to include India, Brazil, Germany, Japan + one African country as permanent members.

    There is not a new proposal, but unfortunately this needs approval by Security Council and USA has its Veto!

    Without this, the UN is in danger of going the same way as The League of Nations before it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    I have just read Viewpoint and Israel and her dwindling band of supporters completely miss the point, I boycott Israeli goods not because I hate Israel, but because I totally disagree with the way they treat the Palestinians, shooting children for throwing stones, terrorising the civilian population, I also feel the Palestinians have a right to resist an ongoing occupation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    wake up people and see who the palestinians are. they never have been a united people, not even their yaser Arafat was a Palestinian, they are a group of refugees from various other arab countries, so why don't the other arab countries take their own responsibility and take them in to the massive land mass that the arabs already have and stop harrasing Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    1 Hour ago

    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...''

    Um...I think you'll find Hamas want to exterminate every last one of them. Is this really what we want on the UN?

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    Yet again a USA president speaks with forked tongue.

    Presidents and politicians have done it to Native Americans, Coloured people, Cubans, Panamanians, Vietnamese, Iraquies etc.

    The rest of the world should stand up to them and have the U N constitution changed so that the largest nations can not just veto anything they wish. How about some form of majority rule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    Haven't you noticed that Syria kills its own people, Libya was run by a maniac, Iran still is, Hamas is sworn to destroy Israel, as is Hezbullah?
    Without a peace treaty and a deal to stop the conflict, there is no sense in creating a Palestinian state EXCEPT to prevent a peace agreement.


Page 5 of 28


More Middle East stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.