Obama Urges Abbas to Back Off UN Bid for Non-member Observer State Status

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U.S. President Barack Obama called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and urged him not to seek non-member observer state status at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said that the Palestinian president stressed to Obama that he plans on appealing to the United Nations due to Israel's continued settlement construction, the stalemate in peace talks, and settler attacks on Palestinian residents of the West Bank.

Abbas also said that he is going to the United Nations in order to keep the two-state solution alive. The Palestinian Authority president is due to leave on a trip to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland in order to recruit support for the UN bid.

Earlier Sunday, Abbas spoke at a Ramallah ceremony marking the anniversary of former PA chairman Yasser Arafat's death and expressed his determination to make the request despite Israeli and American pressure and threats.

“We will turn to them this month; within two days, the Arab League will set exactly what date this month the request will be made."

Israel and the United States oppose the move, saying Palestinian statehood must be achieved via negotiation. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an immediate resumption of peace talks and warned Abbas against making any unilateral moves in the UN General Assembly.

On Saturday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel will stop collecting tax revenues for the PA and refuse to transfer any money if Abbas continues to seek non-member observer state status at the United Nations.

"If the Palestinians continue to advance their unilateral move they should not expect bilateral cooperation. We will not collect their taxes for them and we will not transfer their tax revenues," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization, Abbas said, intends to make the request “even though they say we shouldn't. We will not reject Israel's legitimacy and don't want to reject it, but we do want to harm the legitimacy of the settlements,” he said. The PA, he warned, would not abandon its effort even if Israel and the U.S. carried out their threats and made things difficult.

PLO representatives last weekend distributed a draft of a General Assembly declaration on the status of Palestine.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama, right.Credit: AP / Bloomberg
Abbas and Obama. The Palestinian needs the U.S. president on his side. Credit: AP