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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  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    For those who says Obama is right, even the kids now know that The Capital Of the United States Of America Is Tel Aviv, US politics does not serve the democracy, or freedom, It serve Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    Some people including presidents are completely missing the significance. If Palestine becomes a recognised state then it will be part of the UN which includes the state of Isreal. Therefore if the Palestinians accept recognition they accept Isreal as a state!

    It's Isreal that does not want this because the rules of engagement change and Palestine would get UN backing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    More than 60 years later and nothing has changed. Anti-semitism remains strong, and is growing."

    But Palestinians and Arabs are Semitic people. Anyone pro-Arab can't be called "anti semitic". They might be "anti Zionist" but not anti semitic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    The palestinians already recognized Israel since years, but Israel now is not recognizing Palestine, the problem is the each Israel goverment deals different way than another, Its like you got deal Sharon then go to sharon, Natanyahou and his goverment is so racist and will never give the palestinians anything. and what the Palestinians did is a wise thing

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    RE 495.strangeland

    "Anti-semitism remains strong, and is growing. "

    Can you think of any reason why this might be the case?

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Balfour declaration:

    'HM govt view with favour establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, & will use best endeavours to facilitate.., it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."


  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    the palestinisns must not have very much money or oil ,or use for our exports,or oil (it needed to be said twice)

  • rate this

    Comment number 524.

    If no agreement is made between Israel and Palestineans then there will be war plain and simple. Israel will not give up East Jerusalem just like the UK would not give up Bradford to Pakistan should Pakistan make a unilateral declaration at the UN claiming that Bradford was now part of Pakistan. If they can't agree then either war or wait for a new generation to decide - that's the naked truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    The UN is a tool to promote US foreign policy and its strategic interest. It always vetos any resolutions on this long running issue. Israel as guarantor of the USA will always win. Until the oil in the ME runs out Palistinians can only live in hope for a statehood because it is never going to happen in reality. Keep dreaming Palistinians. (Or is it pray that you end before your nightmare does)

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    Typical two faced politician. Where was this thought of discussing with the opposition to get statehood when israel went to the UN to get statehood without a word to the ethnically cleansed Palestinians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 521.

    The Americans claim the moral high ground, but they are nothing more than self-centred nations with no global responsibility other than their short-term economic interests and votes for the legislators. Then they ask why the Muslim world hates them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    People talk about Palestinians acknowledge the right of Israel to exist, but there is no comment about Israel acknowleging Palestine's right to exist!

    Israel peddals the lie that a Palestinian state threaten Israel, but the truth is that they want all of what was one called Palestine, and treat Palestinians with disdain. The once persecuted have become the persecutor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    abject hypocrisy. little more needs to be said?

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    Jews have a right to a state. Palestinians as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    Israel has a right to exist.

    However, apparently Palestine doesnt.

    Well that seems fair then!

    No less than we have come to expect since Harry Truman first recognised Israel as a state, without any borders being defined, and totally against the advice of George C Marshall.

    It was for domestic US political gain then, and this is the continuing situation!

    Totally morally repugnant!

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    I can't think of anything the USA could do to further increase the risk of terrorism.

    Lesson to US Politicians: They don't hate your way of life, they don't hate your freedom, they hate your unflinching support of israeli oppression.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    What better way of putting a shot over the bows of Israel to encourage them to actually negotiate in good faith that for the UK agree to veto while the US votes FOR the resolution.

    Symbollic I know, but important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    Judging by the tide of the comments here, it seems that the pro-Palestinians have a well-oiled machinery to 'like' votes in favor of a 2-state solution with no negotiations. It would be interesting to perform a rudimentary statistical survey as to which regions of the world these votes are coming from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    If the US intends to veto the Palestinian approah that is of course their decision. I don't agree but it is up to them. The fact that they are continually telling us that they are going to do this before the Palestinians have delivered their intended application demonstrates the one sided arrogant nature of the US. I'm a big fan of barack Obama but this kind of makes me not like him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    I think Obama is undermining the credibility of the UN by saying peace will not come via it's resolutions. I thought that was supposed to be the entire point of the UN? Is Israel being appeased? If so it's a dangerous precedent (no pun intended).

    It smacks strongly of favouritism as he gives no clear reasoning for the US position, couple that with a "badge of honour" and it's hard to understand.


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