After the White House made it clear it would veto any attempt by the Palestinian Authority to join the United Nations, the Palestinians shot back that they “are not seeking to join the mafia, nor al Qaeda, nor an NGO. We are seeking the United Nations that Mr. Obama talked about today so eloquently and so grandly,” referring to Mr. Obama’s annual speech to the U.N. General Assembly this morning.
Dr. Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian Authority spokesman, added that they are “absolutely determined to go through with the requirements of joining the United Nations, but in no way are we considering that as an alternative to negotiations.”
The United States, a strong ally of Israel, argued that the Palestinian quest to join the U.N. is simply trying to take a “short cut” in the peace process, which, Obama said, has reached a stalemate over the last year.
“I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress,” Obama said in his speech. “So am I. But the question isn’t the goal we seek — the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.”
But Shaath defended the Palestinian motivations.
“We are seeking [U.N.] membership because that will give us a chance to support our rights, legitimize the borders on which our state would be done and to give us the kind of support needed to continue building the institutions of that state,” he said.
Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said Obama’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian request in his address today was a “real disappointment.”
“The U.N. is precisely the place where states are born and recognized; it is precisely the place where universal rights have to be safeguarded, particularly the right to self determination,” she said. ”So by, in a sense, one context talking about the Arab spring and talking about the U.N. and the charter and universal rights, he did the right thing, but when it came to the Palestinians we were excluded.”
Shaath added that the Palestinians specifically sought to petition the U.N. this year as a strategy, thinking they might take advantage of President Obama’s need to focus on U.S. elections and domestic issues. But he added that “we are not doing it to spite the United States. We are not doing it to confront the United States. We have no intention of confronting the United States. We disagree with many of the United States’ policies but that in no way makes us really desirous of keeping the United States outside this thing because it will not work.”
The Palestinians are expected to petition the United Nations for membership on Friday but it’s still unclear when or if it will be put to a vote.