Palestinians Reveal Plan to Drum Up Support Ahead of Statehood Bid

Palestinian officials to visit Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries that haven't yet endorsed Palestinian plan for recognition, says member of PLO's decision-making Executive Committee.

Palestinian delegations will make the rounds of nearly a dozen countries to try to drum up more support for their bid to have the United Nations recognize a Palestinian state, senior officials said Monday.

Palestinian officials will visit Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries that have not yet endorsed the Palestinian plan for recognition, said Hana Amireh, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's decision-making Executive Committee.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' foreign minister said all Palestinian ambassadors would meet in Madrid in early July to discuss how to approach all-important European Union member states, whose support would be crucial to giving the plan diplomatic heft.

Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Palestinian ambassadors had been instructed not to be absent from their offices or take vacations "because of the importance of the coming period."

The statehood campaign was born out of the long deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the Palestinian conviction that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is not serious about making peace.

On Sunday, the West Bank Palestinian leadership formally decided to seek UN recognition in September of a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his willingness to resume talks immediately but rejects the Palestinian condition that Israel first halt all settlement construction in areas the Palestinians seek for a future state.

UN General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian state would carry diplomatic weight but no legal clout. Only the UN Security Council can add a nation to the world body, and the U.S. has signaled it would veto such a resolution.

The Palestinians hope to win the support of a majority in the 192-member General Assembly at the United Nations.

Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official, said Sunday if the U.S. blocks acceptance of Palestine as a state, the Palestinians would try for nonmember state status at the world body. "This would open the way for us to get membership in all the UN institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund," he said.

Europe's role in the process is important because without its support, a statehood resolution could be dismissed as the machinations of an automatic anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly. But European support — especially in the face of U.S. opposition — would be a watershed.

Spain and France, have indicated openness to the idea. Britain appears to be wavering and Germany and Italy oppose it.

Netanyahu and Abbas have both met with European leaders recently to press their positions and both sides plan to lobby Eastern European states to join their camps.