Mahmoud Abbas submits application of State of Palestine for UN membership

Here it is – the letter that Mahmoud Abbas gave today to the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon, asking for UN membership for the State of Palestine here.

The documents were posted a short while ago by Colum Lynch, correspondent at UNHQ/NY, on the Foreign Policy website, here.

It is notable that Mahmoud Abbas signed the letter as President of the State of Palestine, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Mahmoud Abbas to selected journalists: UN application will be submitted 19 or 20 September

The New York Times has reported that a selected group of journalists were at the Palestinian Presidential headquarters in the Muqata’a in Ramallah on Thursday, after President Mahmoud Abbas’ talks with U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale.

According to this account, written by the NYTimes’ Isabelle Kershner, “Mr. Abbas said that after they arrived at the United Nations on Sept. 19, the Palestinians would hand their application to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for submission to the Security Council, and that a copy would go to the General Assembly chief. Then, he said, the Palestinians will see what occurs. Earlier Thursday, Palestinian officials and supporters kicked off a popular campaign to accompany the United Nations bid, with several dozen people marching to the United Nations headquarters in Ramallah”.

There was some initial confusion elsewhere about this “popular campaign” delivering a letter to the UN office in Ramallah — with some, particularly in Israel, thinking that this was the presentation of the official request.

This was a matter taken up at the UN regular noon briefing for journalists at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, according to the transcript, here:

Question: Speaking of which, reports, there are reports out from Gaza, from, sorry, from Ramallah that some sort of Palestinian letter, either by the Palestinian Authority or by activists, was sent to the Secretary-General. Has such a letter been received by the Secretary-General? What is your understanding of this, the nature of this?

Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Serry has received the letter and he is in the process of transmitting it to the Secretary-General.

Question: Received a letter from?

Deputy Spokesperson: From I believe it was an activist; a member of an NGO.

Question: An activist? Meaning you don’t perceive this to be an official Palestinian request for membership of the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to wait till the letter is received in the Secretary-General’s office and its contents are read.

Question: But you said Serry has already received it, so I assume that you know the content of it?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t know the content of it, no.

According to the NYTimes: “Mr. Abbas said that if the Quartet produced a package to pave the way back to negotiations that included an Israeli freeze on settlement construction and the use of the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps as the basis for talks on borders — both longstanding Palestinian demands — the Palestinians ‘will go to the United Nations and we will return back to talks’.”

Abbas also said: ” ‘To be frank with you, they came too late’, Mr. Abbas told a group of foreign reporters on Thursday evening at the Mukata, his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The international powers had ‘wasted all the time’ since the beginning of the year, he said, and even now, less than two weeks before the prospective bid at the United Nations, they still had not produced any concrete proposal. Mr. Abbas was speaking after meeting in recent days with two senior American diplomats, David Hale and Dennis Ross, and Tony Blair, the envoy of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers that includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. He said he had also spoken by telephone with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week”.

Why "Hysteria" in Israel about possible September state [Palestine]? Is it b/c of 1967 borders?

Haaretz has reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned that the Palestinian Authority might “collapse” if Israel applies sanctions in a pre-emptive effort to avoid a Palestinian move at the UN in September. The meeting was held on Wednesday, and lasted four hours, Haaretz said. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman did not attend, but some 30 political and military officials did: “in addition to Netanyahu, Steinitz and Barak, also present were Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz … Several of the ministers urged preemptive sanctions against the Palestinian Authority in an effort to pressure PA President Mahmoud Abbas to back down, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak objected, warning that it could lead to the collapse of the PA. Haaretz learned that the discussion also dealt with possible Israeli responses following the vote in the UN General Assembly, which is expected to recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders by a large majority. Among the preemptive sanctions discussed was a proposal by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to stop transferring the customs duties that Israel collects at its ports on the PA’s behalf. The PA is suffering a severe cash shortage and is having a hard time paying its employees; the taxes Israel passes over are used to pay the lion’s share of those salaries. F or this reason, Barak vehemently objected to the measure, saying it could lead to the PA’s collapse, which would leave the territories in a state of anarchy. Representatives of the Justice Ministry and the military prosecution also warned against taking such unilateral steps”. This report is posted here.

An editorial published in Haaretz on Friday said that “As the UN vote on Palestinian statehood within the June 4, 1967 borders approaches, Israel’s government is showing increasing symptoms of hysteria … [Recently] Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened that Israel would revoke the Oslo Accords. This week Lieberman proposed severing all ties with the Palestinian Authority to preempt the wave of violence he says will erupt the day after the UN declaration”.

The Haaretz editorial, which can be read in full here, also notes that “It’s hard to think of a more dangerous and foolish move than destroying the PA and cutting off the livelihood of tens of thousands of security personnel and officials who depend on it for their wages. As Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at the debate, this move would lead to anarchy in the West Bank, making Israel responsible for the welfare of 2.5 million people”.

Continue reading Why "Hysteria" in Israel about possible September state [Palestine]? Is it b/c of 1967 borders?

The big story: September State

This is a gem — “September State (Dawlat Aylul)” by Jerusalem-born artist Ahmad Dari, a long-term resident of France, posted on Youtube here:


This was a follow-up to Ahmad Dari’s earlier observations on the mission of former U.S. Special Envoy, George Mitchell, posted on Youtube here:


Self-Determination: an important concept, now lost?

Both Israeli and Palestinian theoreticians have argued that the partition of the British Mandate Palestine, as decided at British request by the United Nations in General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 1947, violated the principle of self-determination, which is a central — it could even be said, sacred — concept in modern international law.

(Britain then abstained in the UNGA vote on Resolution 181, as did Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman empire).

A recent policy brief published by Dore Gold’s Jewish Center for Policy Affairs [JCPA] in Jerusalem, recently stated openly that Israel’s claim to the West Bank, and the legitimacy of its settlements there, is based on the 1922 Palestine Mandate.

[This is interesting, as the Palestine Mandate was only formally adopted by the Council of the League of Nations in 1923 — after the formal surrender of the Ottoman Empire in Lausanne, and, significantly, after Britain informed the League of Nations that Transjordan was being administered separately, thereby effectively limiting Jewish immigration, which the Mandate was designed to encourage, to the areas west of the Jordan River.]

Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network based in Berkeley, California, has a stated mission of educating and fostering “public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law”. In May 2010, it published a policy brief written by Ali Abunimah, entitled “Reclaiming Self-Determination”, and posted here, which says that “any commitment to self-determination in principle or in practice” has been lost or given up (including by the Palestinian leadership) during the “peace process” of the
past two decades.

Abunimah wrote that “The peace process that began with the 1991 Madrid Conference has gradually excluded the majority of Palestinians from having any role in determining the future of their country. In the eyes of peace process sponsors, the ‘Palestinian people’ constitutes at most residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, though even Gaza now finds itself as marginalized as the Diaspora. It is this exclusion that has allowed a cause of decolonization and self-determination to be reduced to little more than a ‘border dispute’.”

In his analysis, Abunimah then wrote that self-determination is a right “legitimate residents” of the territories — not of national groups (as the League of Nations recognized the Jewish people, for the first time, by incorporating the language of the Balfour Declaration and its advocacy of a Jewish homeland directly into the Palestine Mandate). However, he then argued, Jewish settlers could be considered, if …

He explained: “[T]he notion that Israeli Jews are legitimate residents, provided they shed their colonial character and privileges, derives directly from the traditional conception of Palestinian self-determination. As Arafat put it in his 1974 UN speech, ‘when we speak of our common hopes for the Palestine of tomorrow we include in our perspective all Jews now living in Palestine who choose to live with us there in peace and without discrimination’.”

Jeff Halper: Do it! Palestinian leadership must involve its own people + supporters worldwide in September plan to seek UN membership

Jeff Halper, founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) wrote this week that “the Palestinians’ most loyal and powerful ally is civil society. And yet, this most solid base of support remains unappreciated, underutilized and ignored”.

His article was a critique of the failure of the Palestinian leadership to involve its own people in the diaspora, it’s own people in the occupied Palestinian territory, and civil society around the world — particularly in the reported plan to go to the United Nations in September to seek UN membership for a Palestinian State.

From 1974, the PLO waged a battle seeking UN recognition as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

In November 1988, the late PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] leader Yasser Arafat issued a Declaration of Independence for a Palestinian State, at a meeting of the PLO’s legislative assembly, the Palestine National Council [PNC], in Algeriers. This Declaration was repeated before a session of the UN General Assembly, which moved to Geneva for the occasion, in December 1988. Over 100 UN member states recognized that declaration of independent statehood.

After that, the UN “upgraded” the status of the PLO observer delegation, which was henceforth called the Observer Delegation of Palestine.

Now, the effort will be to seek full UN membership for the State of Palestine. If that fails, a fall-back position might be to seek full observer status for the Palestinian State (similar to the Vatican — or, to Switzerland, before it opted to become a full UN member a little less than a decade ago.

Halper wrote: “Inside the UN, Abbas would present Palestine’s compelling case for independence and UN membership, as he did in his New York Times piece of May 16th. He would also re-frame the conflict. It is not security issues that lay at the roots of the conflict, but Israel ’s refusal to respect Palestinian national rights and to end the Occupation. As he also did in the New York Times article, Abbas must also make it clear that recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in no way compromises the right of refugees to return to their homes, a key point of future negotiations with Israel. He should also state up-front that the establishment of a Palestinian state does not end the Palestinian quest, through peaceful means, of an inclusive single-state solution. If international mobilization is pursued vigorously and Abbas exudes a genuine determination to see a Palestinian state established and recognized, more than 130 countries, including many of the leading European ones, will vote to accept Palestine into the UN. Even if this does not overrule the US veto in the Security Council, it is far more than a merely symbolic achievement and certainly cannot be considered a failure. Such a massive expression of support would demonstrate the inevitability of Palestinian statehood. It would signal the beginning rather than the end of an international campaign for Palestinian rights, one now joined by governments as well as civil society”.

Continue reading Jeff Halper: Do it! Palestinian leadership must involve its own people + supporters worldwide in September plan to seek UN membership

Michael Sfard on some consequences of the Palestinian State

Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer who specializes in human rights and military matters, and who is legal adviser for the organization Yesh Din among others, wrote an article published in Haaretz yesterday predicting that if a Palestinian State is admitted into the UN in September (or anytime soon), then “The mechanisms of legal defense that it [Israel] built since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to combat the ‘danger’ of international jurisdiction about its conduct toward millions of people who are under its control” are about to collapse.

The article, published here also says that “Together with the diplomatic ‘tsunami’ that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has forecast, Israel can expect a legal tsunami, which for the first time will claim a price for violating human rights in the occupied territories. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the prolonged occupation of the Palestinian territories that Israel conquered in 1967, are not an internal Israeli issue. This is an international conflict in which the international community has a legitimate interest. However, during the years of the occupation the state of Israel has repelled the professional legal mechanisms of the United Nations, that deal with protecting human rights, from discussing its actions there…”.

Sfard’s argument continued: “In the territories Israel refused to apply the various human rights treaties that deal, inter alia, with discrimination against women; rights of the child; racial and other discrimination; and torture. Some of Israel’s most talented advocates were sent to Geneva to claim that these treaties were not binding on Israel beyond the Green Line. Israel considers itself the representative of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and as such was one of the initiators of the establishment of an international criminal court for war crimes. The height of jurisdictional isolation came when Israel decided not to ratify the court’s statute so as not to grant it authority to investigate and discuss crimes that, allegedly, were/are being carried out by Israeli officers and soldiers. Over the course of 44 years, Israel has succeeded in putting the job of judging its actions in the occupied territories in the hands of [Israel’s own Supreme Court, the] High Court of Justice, which approved almost every policy and practice of the army in the territories, deepening the occupation and making possible massive violations of human rights under its patronage. Israel succeeded in leaving the investigations of its crimes to [Israel’s] military advocates/attorneys who made sure that the policy of investigation would be such that enforcing the rigor of the law on soldiers and officers who had violated it would be a sort of miracle. All of this is about to come to an end”.

He wrote that “The significance of a Palestinian state joining the UN is that, for the first time, it will be the Palestinians who will decide what the international legal framework is that is binding in their territory. After more than 40 years in the wilderness of the occupation, the Palestinians will have the possibility of influencing their fate through legal means”.

This is because, he noted, “the significance of accepting Palestine as a member of the UN is that the new member will be sovereign to sign international treaties, to join international agreements and to receive the jurisdictional authority of international tribunals over what happens in its territory”.

Continue reading Michael Sfard on some consequences of the Palestinian State

Two Israeli proposals for peace in one month – neither from the Government

UPDATE: Well, it is happening, but maybe not quite as expected. For some participants, who are members of the older or traditional Israeli elite, this was a “baptism” in activism. Haaretz reported here that the announcers were heckled, disrupted — and then, probably for the first time, they got no support from the police: “Leading left-wing cultural leaders, including several Israel Prize laureates, were verbally accosted on Thursday during a rally in support of an independent Palestinian state. The rally, taking place outside Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall, was reportedly disrupted by right-wing activists equipped with bullhorns, who called out: ‘leftist professors, it will all blow up in your face’, ‘Kahane was right’ [?], and ‘traitors’. Rally organizers and participants, who included 17 Israel Prize laureates, said present police forces did not separate rally goers from objectors, as they usually do during right-wing events. The speech by Israel Prize winning actress Hanna Maron was disrupted several times by right-wing counter-protesters, who yelled out ‘fifth column’. Disruptions reportedly continued even after attempts by organizers to quell the anti-rally sentiment by mentioning Maron lost her leg during a 1970 terror attack on an El-Al flight”…

The “police forces did not separate rally goers from objectors” …

YNet reported that some of the right-wing counter-protesters even called the demonstrators “Jewish Nazis” — and “some even cried ‘You forgot about the children who were slaughtered in Itamar’.” This is reported here.

The YNet report added that “The organizers of the event are a number of artists and academicians who have recently published petitions warning of the rise of ‘fascism’ in the Israeli government”.

The Jerusalem Post later reported here that the right-wing crowd nearly drowned out the people making the Declaration of Independence from Occupation, and hurled “insults”, as “shoving matches broke out”. The JPost report said that “The demonstration had a largely volatile edge to it, but was eventually dispersed shortly after 3 p.m. without any injuries or arrests made”.

These Israelis who stood behind the Declaration of Independence against the Occupation took a public stand today — and they stood up for it (so far, at least).

Here is what we posted earlier:

(1) In just over an hour, it is scheduled to happen … in the middle of the Passover week vacation and celebrations in Israel, a group of eminent Israelis from the mainstream of public life in the country are going to issue a call from Tel Aviv declaring the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land (and lives) that began with the June 1967 war.

On Thursday, the right-wing [meaning, in the Israeli political spectrum, pro-occupation and pro-settlement] Israel National News reported here that “Radical left professors and others are accused of siding with the enemy in planning a ceremony at which they will ‘declare’ a Palestinian state”.

Not exactly…

Haaretz reported Wednesday here that “Dozens of public figures will stage a protest on Thursday at 2 p.m. in front of Independence Hall on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, where David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s statehood in May of 1948” …

The people behind this Declaration are from the traditional elite of Israel…

Continue reading Two Israeli proposals for peace in one month – neither from the Government

EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission hosted a regular twice-yearly meeting on 13 April of the donor coordination group [Ad Hoc Liaison Committee or AHLC] for the occupied Palestinian territory in Brussels. The meeting was presided over by Norwegian Foreign Minister Støre in his capacity as chair of the AHLC, and was attended by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad, as well as Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, and officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry — and, though we wouldn’t have known it from the AHLC or Blair websites [see instead link below to a Haaretz story], also present was the IDF officer in charge of the Israeli military-administered sanctions on Gaza, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot [whose title is “Coordinator of {Israeli} Government Activities in the {occupied Palestinian} Territories”, a Defense Ministry unit otherwise known as COGAT, which also controls quite a lot in the West Bank as well as in Gaza].

It was, apparently, the first in a series of donor meetings planned for 2011.

The next planned donor conference is scheduled to be held in Paris in June 2011, to support “the Palestinian national development plan for 2011-2013”.

{The UN describes the AHLC here as “a 12-member committee that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. The AHLC is chaired by Norway and cosponsored by the EU and US. In addition, the United Nations participates together with the World Bank (Secretariat) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The AHLC seeks to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Government of Israel (GoI)”. The Portland Trust, which seems to set the policies that Tony Blair follows, notes here that “The AHLC was established on 1 October 1993 (this is two weeks after the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords) . It serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. Norway is the chair of the committee, the World Bank acts as secretariat and the EU and US are co-sponsors. The members are: the Palestinian Authority (PA), Government of Israel (GoI), Canada, Egypt, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan, Jordan, United Nations (UN), Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia”. It is worth noting that the Portland Trust’s publication, Palestinian Economic Bulletin, is prepared by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) in Ramallah.}

The Norwegian Chairman reportedly said that “the international donor group in support of the Palestinians (AHLC) welcomed reports that the Palestinian Authority has crossed the threshold for a functioning state in terms of its successful institution building. This was the assessment of the Palestinian Authority’s performance in key sectors studied by the World Bank, the IMF, and the UN. Moreover, according to the IMF, the Palestinian reforms have come so far that not only is the public financial management system ready to support the functions of a state; it has even become a model for other developing countries”. These remarks are posted here.

This report also reported that Støre said: “many donors noted that the lack of political progress leaves the negotiating track out of sync with the far advanced state-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority. This is why all parties concerned must stand firm behind the stated goal of negotiating a framework agreement on permanent status and a subsequent comprehensive peace treaty by the agreed target date in September”.

Continue reading EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

Nabil ElAraby – new Foreign Minister of the new Egypt

Egyptian diplomat and international law expert Nabil ElAraby has been named the new Foreign Minister of the new Egypt.

He has served at the United Nations, and has been a member of the UN’s International Law Commission, and he also served as a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

In a very important separate opinion, concurring with the ICJ’s July 2005 Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Construction of a Wall in occupied Palestinian territory, ElAraby wrote:
“What I consider relevant to emphasize is that this special responsibility [of the United Nations for Palestine, as mentioned in the main body of the Advisory Opinion of July 2004] was discharged for five decades without proper regard for the rule of law. The question of Palestine has dominated the work of the United Nations since its inception, yet no organ has ever requested the International Court of Justice to clarify the complex legal aspects of the matters under its purview. Decisions with far-reaching consequences were taken on the basis of political expediency, without due regard for the legal requirements. Even when decisions were adopted, the will to follow through to implementation soon evaporated. Competent United Nations organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, have adopted streams of resolutions that have remained wholly or partially unfulfilled. The United Nations special responsibility has its origins in General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947, hereafter the Partition Resolution”…

See the post on our sister site,, here.