Palestinians Inch Toward UN Vote on Membership

ABC News’ Seni Tienabeso @Senijr_ABC reports:

Palestinian diplomats continued today their push inside the United Nations to achieve an internationally recognized state of their own.

Despite promises by the Obama administration to veto any vote that admits the Palestinian territories as a full U.N. member, the Security Council unanimously agreed this morning to let their application be reviewed by a committee that will decide whether to bring it to the body for that vote.

“As you see, the process is moving forward step-by-step,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said shortly after the meeting ended. “We hope the Security Council will shoulder its responsibility and approve the application.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor relayed the U.S. and Israeli position that a true Palestinian state will not be achieved by a U.N. vote.

“This is between Ramallah and Jerusalem. … Let’s go back without shortcuts. This is the only way we can achieve peace on both sides,” Prosor said. “We are not against a Palestinian state. The thing is how to get there.”

Complicating matters further was the announcement Tuesday by the Israeli government of the approval of 1,100 new settlements to be built in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians want to place their capital.

“I think this provocative and illegal action by Israel of the construction of 1,100 is a clear answer by the Israeli government to the Quartet of their refusal to abide to the global consensus that settlements are an illegal obstacle to peace,” ambassador Mansour said. “They gave 1,100 answers. … Israel is not interested in negotiating with us. Their actions speak louder than what they say verbally.”

But Israeli officials continue to resist any attempts to negotiate with preconditions, including the freeze of new settlements being set. “It’s [settlements] in Jerusalem and Jerusalem is something that we will negotiate,” Prosor said. “Jerusalem was capital of the Jewish people when London was still a swamp.”

The White House called the decision Tuesday “deeply disappointing”, and could prove a substantial setback to the Mideast Quartet’s (U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia) attempts to avoid a confrontation inside the U.N., and resume negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

Palestinian officials have yet to respond to the Quartet’s effort made Friday to jumpstart the stalled peace process. Palestinians won’t reject the proposals outright, but will continue to refuse to negotiate until there is a settlement freeze, sources told ABC News.

If the Quartet proves unsuccessful, then it might ultimately force the United States to veto the Palestinian bid, and potentially inflame the Arab world at a time when democratic aspirations continue to reshape the region.

As the committee reviews the application, U.S. officials hope they can buy at least a month by tying up the bid process in order to buy what one official called “breathing room” to allow negotiations to resume.

Palestinian officials believe they have the nine votes needed to force the United States to play its hand, but U.S. officials are privately confident that they can block it.

Security Council members Nigeria and Gabon are among those being lobbied furiously on both sides.

The committee that will review the Palestinian bid will meet for the first time Friday morning.

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