Four days before the United Nations vote on recognition of Palestine as a non-member state, the Palestine Liberation Organization says it is expecting a "pleasant surprise" in the UN General Assembly in New York. According to PLO sources, representatives of seven more European countries have indicated they will vote to admit Palestine as a non-member state. Five other European countries had already announced they would support the bid and France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has broadly hinted that France will vote in favor.
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"Until about two weeks ago we were quaking because only three countries had said they were voting in favor," a PLO official told Haaretz. Sources in the PLO said Britain had given up on its efforts to get the Palestinians to postpone their bid. "The United States, which was busy with the elections, contracted Britain to apply pressure, which failed," the sources said. The PLO said it was also pleased that Germany, though it will probably oppose the motion, at least was not using its power to dissuade other countries from casting a vote in favor.
"Anyone who doesn't vote in favor is a coward or immoral, that was our message," said another member of the Palestinian diplomatic team which in the past two months has been waging what he called "a diplomatic and political street struggle" in European capitals, trying to convince them that a vote for non-member status for Palestine was a vote for a two-state solution within the 1967 borders.
After the cease-fire in Operation Pillar of Defense, which the Palestinians see as a Hamas victory, the Palestinian diplomatic team said "a vote against will be a clear signal to the Palestinian people that only armed struggle will bring achievements, and the diplomatic political struggle is doomed to failure from the outset."
The Palestinian team consists of young diplomats from the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Ramallah, the Fateh Commission for International Relations, headed by Nabil Shaath, and officials of the PLO's negotiations department. By voting day, this Thursday, the Palestinians hope to persuade as many European countries as possible at least to abstain.
The resolution is certain to pass, but of particular importance to the Palestinians are the votes of countries not among the 136 that have already recognized Palestine as a state since 1988, especially the European countries. The Palestinian Christian community has also taken part in the diplomatic efforts, publishing a statement noting the historic responsibility of Europe to ensure the Palestinians' rights.
The PLO has indications that the Palestinian public supports the move, although it is not enthusiastic and is not following the diplomatic efforts. However, according to that same assessment, if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had bowed to pressure by the United States, Britain and Israel and postponed the application, it would be received very badly.
Palestinian sources said Arab and Muslim countries are working toward a favorable vote. According to the sources, at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, it was made clear to Cameroon and Bosnia (which has observer status ) that if they do not vote in favor, their status in the organization would be suspended. The sources said Saudi Arabia told a European country that intends to abstain that it should "think about its interests in the Arab world." South Africa, India, and Brazil have all been active on their continents to persuade other countries to vote in favor, sources in the PLO said. "They took it as a personal matter of theirs," a source said.
The UN vote, sources in Ramallah said, will be just the first step. Immediately thereafter work will begin on forging a national unity government with Hamas. And as Abbas has already stated, it will be possible to begin negotiations again with Israel. However, a source in Fatah involved in the diplomatic campaign said the Palestinians have learned from past mistakes: "We will not agree to continue negotiating as long as laws are being broken," the source said, referring to construction in the settlements, "and we will set a strict timetable for the talks."