Abbas Plans To Ask U.N. For Palestinian Statehood

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announces that he will present the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition directly to the U.N. Security Council next week. This, despite the threat of a U.S. veto. Abbas said U.N. recognition of a state on territory seized by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War will allow the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel as equals.

MICHELE NORRIS, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block. The Palestinians made their intentions clear today in their bid for statehood.

MAHMOUD ABBAS: (Through translator) We are going to the Security Council.

BLOCK: Heard there through an interpreter, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas formally announced his plan to seek statehood recognition at the United Nations next week. Israel called it a unilateral move that will not promote peace. The Palestinians are also setting the stage for a confrontation with the U.S. by directing their appeal to the U.N. Security Council. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has the story from Jerusalem.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's been a lot of diplomatic maneuvering this week. The U.S. has been making last minute efforts to stop the Palestinians from going to the Security Council. The U.S. has promised a veto, but it doesn't want to be forced to issue one. The two sides, though, now appear on a collision course. The Palestinians, at this point, say they feel they have nothing to lose. Peace talks with Israel are at a complete standstill and the Palestinians say they have no trust that they will resume in good faith with the present Israeli leadership.

In his speech today, Abbas said by gaining U.N. recognition, Israel and the Palestinians would be able to negotiate as equals. Still, it's a major gamble. Mahmoud Abbas cautioned in his speech against overblown expectations. He said, any U.N. recognition will not automatically create a state on the ground and the Israelis have threatened to retaliate if the Palestinians go through with the U.N. bid. They could withhold crucial funds or even annex settlement blocks in the occupied West Bank.

The U.S., too, finds itself in uncomfortable territory. There is no doubt issuing a veto will damage its standing in the region and its close Middle Eastern allies have warned that there will be repercussions. Saudi Arabia, for example, said it will end its special relationship with Washington. And for Israel, this is a major embarrassment. The Palestinian move highlights the lack of progress in peace talks and the expansion of Israeli settlements, which the international community views as illegal.

Israel is also worried that if the Palestinians gain recognition, they could challenge the occupation in forums like the International Criminal Court. This is a time of great uncertainly of the Middle East. The Arab Spring has changed the face of the region and the U.N. bid could also push this intractable conflict into uncharted waters. Both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak at the U.N. next week to make their cases to the world body. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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