The Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, has exposed a mass of contradictions in the positions taken by Israel, the United States, and major European Union countries by announcing that on September 23 he would submit to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a letter requesting full United Nations membership for Palestine. The request will be based on the Palestinian borders as they obtained on June 4, 1967, that is, before the Six-Day War. The U.S. has already said it would veto the proposal in the Security Council, in which case Mr. Abbas will request the 193-member General Assembly to recognise Palestine as an observer state. While not amounting to full membership, that would mean a significant enhancement of Palestine's current “observer entity” status, which allows it only to maintain an observer mission at the world body. It would enable Palestine to bring actions in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice, and thereby call Israel to account for its conduct. Palestine would also be able to join a range of U.N. bodies, which it cannot do now.
In reaction, Israel is maintaining its refusal to stop illegal construction in the West Bank and other occupied territories, and now hardliners are calling for it to withhold customs revenues which it collects on behalf of the PA and passes on. The Netanyahu government seems unable to see that Palestine as a full U.N. member would also be responsible for any attacks, say from Gaza, on Israel, and that starving the Palestinians will only embitter them further, with the likelihood that support for their elected representatives, Hamas, will grow. The U.S. Congress, for its part, has threatened to stop aid to the Palestinians, but that will damage Washington's already diminished standing in West Asia and North Africa even further. As for the Middle East Quartet (the European Union, the U.S., Russia, and the U.N.), its frantic efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks reveal, in particular, a failure to accept that the 1993 Oslo accords are now a dead letter. With the exception of Russia, the governments involved are flying in the face of global public opinion. About 140 countries in the General Assembly support the PA application to the U.N. One poll puts public support for it in Britain, France, and Germany at 59, 69, and 71 per cent respectively. Even in the U.S., according to another poll, 45 per cent back the bid while only 36 per cent oppose it. Israel and its allies are both trying to deny the justice of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations and to hold back an unstoppable tide.