Arab League backs Palestinian bid for UN membership

Arab ministers pledge to ’take all necessary measures’ to secure recognition of Palestinian state via appeal to security council

The Arab League has endorsed a Palestinian plan to seek full membership at the United Nations, in a move likely to lead to a confrontation with the US in the UN security council.

Negotiations with Israel on the terms of Palestinian statehood have been frozen since 2008. As an alternative the Palestinians have decided to seek UN recognition of an independent “Palestine” in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 six-day war.

Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Doha said they would support the Palestinian bid.

The ministers pledged in a statement to “take all necessary measures and to rally needed support of all world countries, starting with members of the security council, to recognise the state of Palestine … and to win full membership of the United Nations”.

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel or the US to the decision. However the US, one of the five permanent members of the security council, has strongly hinted it would veto a Palestinian membership request. As an alternative the Palestinians could go to the general assembly and seek recognition there as a non-member observer state, a largely symbolic nod. After Thursday’s announcement Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians would appeal to both bodies, beginning with the security council. “We hope the United States will not use its veto against this decision,” he said.

Taking on the US is potentially risky for the Palestinians, since Washington is the main Middle East mediator. There is already a move in Congress to cut off millions of dollars in aid if an emerging Palestinian unity government includes Hamas.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, opposes a full withdrawal from the West Bank, where 300,000 Israelis have settled since 1967, and says Israel will never relinquish east Jerusalem, which he considers an integral part of the country’s capital. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but continues to control the territory’s borders, sea and air space.

Israel and the US say a Palestinian state should be formed through a peace deal with Israel. The latest significant round of peace talks broke down in late 2008. At the time Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, had agreed on the principle of swapping some West Bank land for Israeli territory but the leaders were far apart on the extent of such a swap and other key disputes, including the fate of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have said they will not resume talks unless Israel agrees to freeze settlement construction and accepts the pre-1967 lines as the basis of a peace deal.

( / 14.07.2011)

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