Former PLO UN envoy: No UN membership in September

Nasser al-Qudwa has ‘no illusions,’ but says move is positive step

Nasser Al-Qudwa, during an interview June 13, 2011 (© Ryan Ariel Simon)

By Ryan Ariel Simon

RAMALLAH, West Bank (June 17) – Former PLO ambassador Nasser al-Qudwa said Monday, June 13, Palestinians will not achieve membership for the State of Palestine at the United Nations in September, but it will be still be a positive step forward.

Al-Qudwa, a long time diplomat at the UN and nephew of Yasser Arafat, said the Palestinian campaign for statehood would begin in September but discussions in the UN General Assembly could take up to a year.

Faced with a veto by the United States in the Security Council, “what we can do is to take state recognition a step further, and to achieve straightforward recognition,” al-Qudwa said, “A recognition of the state of Palestine on 1967 borders.”

“This is the beginning, not the end of a continued political struggle at the UN”

The Palestinian leadership turned to the UN during what al-Qudwa calls a crisis in negotiations between Israeli’s and Palestinians, and though he sees the UN as a necessity, he does not see it as a substitute to negotiations with Israel.

The United States favors bilateral negotiations based on the 1967 borders, as laid out in President Barack Obama’s May speech, over unilateral Palestinian efforts at the UN.

In contrast the Israeli settler movement’s representative in the West Bank, Danny Dayan, told Israel National News “We need to pressure Netanyahu to use the situation to Israel’s advantage… to declare the Oslo process, which was the biggest strategic mistake Israel ever made, dead.”

“Peace can only be achieved around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement will not bring peace,” the Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu told the US congress in May, though he also told Haaretz the conflict was “insoluble.”

Nidal Foqaha is a senior Palestinian official at the Geneva Initiative, an Israeli-Palestinian group involved in negotiations between the sides; he says they “did not leave a fruitful process to go to the UN.”

One day as he as entered Gaza, Foqaha says he saw a billboard reading: 1 year of qassams = Israeli withdrawal, 15 years of negotiations = nothing, and said those who make this argument win in the absence of productive bilateral negotiations.

If the Europeans and US come up an initiative, Foqaha said, the Palestinians would redraft the mission to improve their UN status along the lines al-Qudwa laid out.

“If we feel US veto is coming we should reevaluate strategy,” said Foqaha, “The Palestinians depend on the international community.”

In the next several weeks Palestinian committees including officials, academics, and NGO’s such as the Geneva Initiative will discuss what happens after September.

The deliberations include a one-day debate on the subject in Ramallah, according to Foqaha, who has also been involved in an effort to survey the size of support in the UN General Assembly.

Though Palestinians in general believe that going to the UN is win-win “Whatever action is taken is not going to magically change the situation,” al-Qudwa said.

But he argues that it will put Palestinians in a better political and legal situation, allowing them to negotiate on more equal footing.

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