Mahmoud Abbas AP Sept. 25. 2010
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the UN General Assembly, Sept. 25, 2010 Photo by AP
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Palestinian activists launched a campaign Thursday for the recognition of a Palestinian state in the United Nations. The move contradicts earlier reports that the Palestinian Authority was the one who issued the request.

In a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's Ramallah office, Palestinian activists urged the leader of the international community to "exert all possible efforts toward the achievement of the Palestinian people's just demands."

The letter said the campaign would include a series of peaceful events leading up to the September 21 opening of the UN General Assembly. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the assembly two days later, according to the activists.

The grassroots launch of the Palestinian campaign was announced amid reported U.S. Republican attempts to pressure U.S. President Barack Obama into thwarting the Palestinian move.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a conservative who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said earlier Wednesday that Obama should say clearly and publicly the United States will use its veto on the Security Council to block any Palestinian bid to gain UN membership.

Obama's administration has been making diplomatic moves to try to head off the Palestinian plan to gain statehood recognition at the UN General Assembly.

Washington fears the Palestinians' statehood initiative could further snarl flagging U.S. efforts to revive Middle East peace talks, which broke down last year following a dispute over West Bank settlements.

"I think President Obama should have come out clearly and said we will veto this," Ros-Lehtinen told Reuters in a telephone interview shortly after flying from Miami to Washington on Wednesday.

Also on Thursday, addressing the possibility of a UN ratification of the Palestinian push to achieve statehood, legal experts voiced their concern that a recognition of a Palestinian state could, in theory, could lead to Israeli officials being brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for claims regarding its settlement policies in the West Bank.

According to the statute of the court, the direct or indirect transfer of an occupier’s population into occupied territory constitutes a war crime.

“The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the Hague is a complementary jurisdiction, meaning that the court will not intervene in cases when a war crime complaint is being investigated by Israel and those responsible are prosecuted,” explained Prof. Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and an expert in international law.

“But in instances in which Israel is not conducting a war crime investigation and is not trying to ascertain the guilt of the accused, the court may get involved,” he said.
“The settlements are a prime example of this, since in theory one could say that we are talking about a war crime, that Israel is not investigating it and not bringing those responsible to justice. Thus, the court could get involved and investigate.”