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 511.

    This is all about the Jewish vote in the US, I'm with Palestine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    Obama the public figure is just trying to keep the situation from escalating into a further downward spiral, in private he may judge it a morally bad move.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    M Obama is no friend of the Palestinians nor their plight it seems. His ignorance of Israel's blatant defiance of international law with no punishment as a result leaves a nasty taste. Disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    Britain were the lap dogs of the US, and the US are the lap dogs of Israel. I think its totally unacceptable how the US will veto Palestine's entry into the UN. If any other country annexed sovereign territories there would be an uproar and sanctions. When Israel do it nothing really happens. The US decision to veto the vote is business not politics. Israel seems to have too much influence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    The only solution to middle east crices is two states.American people have to consider it for long lasting peace in the region,speeches will not work.The palestinian children are looking with empty eyes towards US.
    Now time has reached to give them their state back.

    Add your comment...

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    The most dangerous creature is one that has nothing to lose.

  • Comment number 505.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.

    ‎"63 years and counting. I think it's fair to say that the Palestinians deserve their own country. Israel was formed through the UN. It's only fair that after expulsions, wars, and occupation, the Palestinian get what they deserve"

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    PL1: "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"

    Every day? Fact is, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya murdered their OWN people. Israel, on the other hand, either rightly or wrongly, depending on your viewpoint, murders the people of a hostile enemy that hates it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    Okay, seems everybody is in agreement about this.

    That's something. People are clearly very humane and compassionate about what is going on.

    Yes the politicians bla bla bla .... but at least human nature is intact !

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    The failure of Israel to heed previous UN requirements allied to settlement building and violence voids their claim to the moral high ground. Palestinians have their problems and issues but to deny the people a land is a disgrace and stain on the Israeli state and the Jewish people. Shame on them all; US, Isreal and the Palestinians. Politics with peoples lives is seldom less attractive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    Am I right in saying that, if every country on the planet wants Palestine recognised as independent, the wishes of every country in the world can be trumped by America's veto?

    Are we absolutely certain that America are the good guys?

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    The whole thing is laughable, The US find UN useful to attack Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya to bring peace and democracy but would veto any attempt of a democratically and majority led Govt of a nation for UN membership.
    The US need to wake up and stop being responsible for the bloodshed of both Muslims and Jews in the middle east. Also stop sucking the resources of middle eastern countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    470. United Dreamer said
    "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?"

    And the same with the Kurdish people. When will they get their state? Which makes Turkey's prime minister's position on Palestine hypocritical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    The unspoken truth is that Israel's citizenry and leaders believe in a Biblical right to a 'greater Israel' - the land 'occupied' by the Palestinians. No Israeli leader will EVER be the one to negotiate away these Israeli 'rights'. The land the British didn't give them, they waged war for, 'settle' or lay seige to, maintaining the status quo with a strategy of permanently stalled 'negotiation'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    "terrorising the civilian population"

    Which side of the conflict is innocent of that? whats the moral difference between an artillary shell killing a person or a bomb killing the same person?

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Israel came into existence as a jewish state after more than 6 million Jews were murdered by savages who wanted to end their existence in this world. More than 60 years later and nothing has changed. Anti-semitism remains strong, and is growing. The Jewish state is now completely surrounded by anti-semitic Islamic states intent on ruining the only democracy in the region

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    It's about time the rich Islamic countries put their mega oil dollars to good use and helped out their struggling poor comrades in other places, whether it be Palestine (why can't these people move there in any case!), or Somalia. Instead, Israel is the only country in the Middle East to take in refugees from Darfur

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    Can someone please explain whose land israel is occupying?

    It's not the Palestinians because there has never been a palesinian state in that area. The palestinians refused the UN partition plan
    Maybe its Jordons but they weren't there legally?

    The Palestinians deserve a state but they first need to accept that Israel can't give BACK land they never had.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.


    "For >3k years there were continuously Jews in Israel. Jews returned from the diaspora before the UN existed, notably in the 1930s"

    Yr 2nd sentence stronger than yr 1st. Until the Balfour declaration in 1917 it was unclear where a new Jewish homeland should be, Palestine was the idea of Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion and (let us not forget) David Lloyd-George (the UK's 1st WW PM)!


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