Riyad Mansour - Bloomberg - 2006
Riyad Mansour at a UN Security Council meeting in New York in 2006. Photo by Bloomberg
Text size

BUDAPEST − The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, is in the forefront of the Palestinian diplomatic move − now gaining momentum − before the General Assembly meet in September. In the coming weeks, Mansour will submit to the UN secretary general an official request for Palestine to be accepted as a full member of the world body. Mansour hopes that September will see more than 130 countries voting in the General Assembly in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state, even if it does not receive full membership status.

What do you think about the fact that the Quartet [United States, Russia, the European Union, the United Nations] has not published a statement?

The Quartet decision to send envoys is a fancy way to say they failed. The Americans just could not deliver the Israelis.

Don’t you think that the Palestinian move in the UN is just symbolic and will not change anything on the ground?

The Israeli government is fighting us, saying that the international community should not let us do that. If it is symbolic, why are they fighting it so hard? It is definitely not symbolic.

What will happen if you don’t get the 130 votes that you are expecting?

If we go to a vote tomorrow, we will get two-thirds of the General Assembly. We have the votes. The significance of the number of votes is to maximize the pressure on the Security Council. What will be the argument of anyone to deprive us of the right to join the community of nations?

Do you think you will be able to get any EU member states to recognize the Palestinian state?

Just hold tight. You will be hearing interesting news soon about it before September.

Are you going to apply to the UN on July 15 and ask to become a full member?

We will apply when we are ready. Israel submitted it’s application in 1948 on the last week of the General Assembly session. They asked the Security Council to suspend the articles that dealt with time regimentation because of their special situation. It took Israel seven months to become a full member in May 1949. Look at South Sudan. It will take them two weeks to become a member, so the time procedures are not rigid.

But what will happen on the next day − after the UN resolution?

It is similar to [General Assembly] Resolution 181 in 1947. The following day nothing happened, but was Israel able to declare independence without 181? I don’t think so. We are going through the same process right now. The next day, the sun will rise from the east but the resolution will be historic and will lead the way for a declaration of independence. Huge things take time. Things will not change in 24 hours. All those who wish for a silver bullet, there is no such thing. But there is accumulation.

Do you see a Tahrir Square scenario in Ramallah?

It is not for me to decide but for the Palestinian people. Our people have a rich tradition of struggle and collective wisdom in doing what is proper. If they will believe and come to the conclusion that this battle is their battle, and not only the battle of Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] or Salam Fayyad, that will reflect itself. The Palestinian people are like the Egyptian people and are capable of doing remarkable things. But these things you don’t give orders for. If the Egyptian people managed to change the U.S. position in 18 days so that Obama told his ally Mubark to leave, what will the position of the international community be if the Palestinian people will say we what independence − and we want it now? We learned our lesson, and this is why our struggle will be peaceful, peaceful, peaceful. Why would anybody stand in our way?

You are not afraid to find yourselves in a third intifada?

I don’t want to give it names. It is just the will of the Palestinian people. If it exhibits itself in a peaceful way, it will enter the configuration of the dynamics of how to solve this situation. If the international community will not step up to the plate, as it should, and the Quartet is not doing anything, the Palestinian people who live under occupation might contribute in their own way.

You think that the Palestinians will conclude that the only way to change the situation is to resort to violence?

If there is violence, it is from the Israeli army. Our people in Bil’in demonstrated peacefully against the [separation] wall, and they have with them Israelis and internationals [foreigners]. Those who brought violence there was the occupying army.

You think that the lessons of the first intifada were learned?

Our actions speak for themselves. Take Bil’in as an example. Those who oppose our move in the UN are coming every week with a new story. The Palestinian people do not need credentials to prove that they are struggling peacefully to put an end to the occupation.

Are you worried from what might happen if the stalemate continues?

This is the last chance for the survival of the two-state solution. Israel will be responsible for what will come later. By going to the UN, we are trying to save the two-state solution. The danger is that we will get to the extreme possibilities of the one-state solution that is suicide for Israel. Something has to give. Israel can’t continue holding the stick at both ends.

Why are you going for a unilateral move, and not going back to the negotiating table?

Our independence is not a matter for negotiation. The Israelis in 1948 did not seek permission from anyone to declare their independence. We are no different. The negotiation should be on the six core issues − not on our right to a state and independence.

Everyone is telling us that we have done a great job building our institutions, and that we are ready to govern ourselves. Should we wait until Netanyahu is ready to negotiate with us?

This is not a unilateral action. We engaged many countries bilaterally, and they recognized us. One hundred and twenty-two states and very soon we will have more than 130. This recognition is an investment in peace, not a unilateral action.

We are going for a multilateral action. When we go to the UN and we want to legislate the results of what we have done in the last two years, how is that unilateral?