Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Edith M. Lederer / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, right, shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at U.N. headquarters on Wednesday.
U.N. diplomats said they will be listening closely to Abbas' speech to the General Assembly on Thursday afternoon before the vote to see if he makes an offer of fresh negotiations with no strings, which could lead to new talks. The Palestinians have been demanding a freeze on Israeli settlements as a precondition.
As a sign of the importance Israel attaches to the vote, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman flew to New York and was scheduled to meet Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before the vote. Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor had been scheduled to speak in the General Assembly after Abbas, but it appears Lieberman may now make Israel's case opposing the resolution.
Unlike the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly. The 193-member world body is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and the resolution to raise its status from an observer to a nonmember observer state only requires a majority vote for approval. To date, 132 countries — over two-thirds of the U.N. member states — have recognized the state of Palestine.
The Palestinians have been courting Western nations, especially the Europeans, seen as critical to enhancing their international standing. A number have announced they will vote "yes" including France, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland. Those opposed or abstaining include the U.S., Israel, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia.
A high vote could boost Abbas' standing.
"If there is a poor turnout, a poor vote, the radicals gain," said India's U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri.
The Palestinians turned to the General Assembly after the United States announced it would veto their bid last fall for full U.N. membership until there is a peace deal with Israel.
Following last year's move by the Palestinians to join the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, the United States withheld funds from the organization, which amount to 22 percent of its budget. The U.S. also withheld money to the Palestinians.