The Palestinian Authority will formally submit its bid for full membership in the United Nations on September 20, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told the French news agency AFP Saturday. The news agency said a Palestinian offical noted that President Shimon Peres had met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas four times in recent months in a bid to resume peace negotiations.
The statement to AFP is the first official Palestinian announcement that the PA will seek recognition of a Palestinian state as a UN member; the request will be presented by Abbas on the opening day of the UN’s fall meetings in New York.
Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the Peres-Abbas meetings took place more than two months ago.
Next month, Arab members will be at helm of UN bodies with Lebanon holding the rotating presidency of the Security Council and Qatar as chairman of the General Assembly.
The Palestinian membership bid will go first to the Security Council and is is expected to receive firm majority support. The leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization had previously announced that mass marches would be held in the West Bank that day in support of UN recognition.
The Prime Minister’s Office called the UN bid “expected but regrettable,” adding that it seems to indicate Abbas has decided to avoid direct negotiations with Israel, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes only direct negotiations, rather than unilateral decisions, can advance the peace process.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni of Kadima said the Palestinian decision to seek UN membership was “bad for Israel.” Responsibility for “this diplomatic failure” rests with Netanyahu, she said, adding that his “inability to understand reality and his refusal to pursue the negotiations conducted by Kadima [under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] is leading Israel to one of the most dangerous debacles in its history. She called on Israel to resume negotiations before September.
Meanwhile, in response to Friday’s U.S. State Department announcement that humanitarian aid in Gaza from the United States Agency for International Development would be suspended, a spokesmen for Hamas said Saturday that a compromise is in the offing. The U.S. announced the suspension after Hamas said it would be auditing nonprofit humanitarian organizations in Gaza and demand they submit future project plans and the names of their employees. Last Sunday, the offices of an American nonprofit in Gaza, the International Medical Corps, were raided and shut down after failing to turn over documents demanded by officials.
American assistance is critical to the population of Gaza, and on Friday, the U.S. administration said it would suspend $100 million in annual assistance to 17 American humanitarian organizations there after Hamas officials in Gaza failed to allow the International Medical Corps office to reopen.