Mahmoud Abbas' bold bid for U.N recognition of Palestinian statehood is doomed to fail but has won him admiration at home and re-energised international efforts to seek a negotiated settlement.
Thousands of jubilant, flag-waving Palestinians watching on outdoor screens across the West Bank, cheered on their president on Friday as he submitted his historic request for a U.N. nod. In Nablus, the crowd roared ecstatically when Mr. Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, told the U.N General Assembly that he had submitted the request for full U.N. membership.
In New York, Mr. Abbas' speech was interrupted repeatedly by thunderous applause as he told the largely sympathetic gathering of world leaders that the Palestinians had had enough of negotiations that have foundered for nearly two decades and yielded few tangible results for the millions who live under Israeli occupation.
The new Palestine he envisioned would be in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967.
“It is a moment of truth and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world,” Mr. Abbas said. “At a time when the Arab peoples affirm their quest for democracy the Arab Spring the time is now for the Palestinian Spring, the time for independence.”
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon referred the statehood request to the Security Council, where U.S. opposition is expected to shoot it down. The Security Council will meet on Monday to examine the Palestinian membership request.
Shortly after Mr. Abbas submitted his formal application, international mediators called on Israelis and Palestinians to return to long-stalled negotiations and reach an agreement no later than next year. The Quartet of Middle East negotiators — the U.S., European Union, U.N. and Russia — urged both parties to draw up an agenda for peace talks within a month and produce comprehensive proposals on territory and security within three months. They would like to see a final deal by the end of next year.
Mr. Abbas' determination to press ahead with the statehood application appeared to be reflected in the Quartet's statement, which was radically different from what diplomats had been hoping to draft. U.S. and European officials had been trying to craft a statement that would have outlined parameters of the negotiations, including a reference to borders being based on the pre-war lines and affirm Israel's identity as a Jewish state something the Palestinians have resisted.
Instead, the Quartet focused on proposing deadlines for steps the two sides should take.