Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has announced that the Palestinian Authority will present its bid for non-state UN membership, despite US and Israeli opposition.
Following talks with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo, “it has been agreed that the request will be presented on Nov. 29,” Abbas told reporters on Monday, calling for support from Arab states.
US President Barack Obama told Abbas in a telephone conversation on Sunday that his administration opposes the Palestinian UN initiative, and Israeli officials have threatened punitive measures if the Palestinians go ahead with the bid.
“We don’t want any confrontations with the United States or Israel. If we could start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the vote, we will,” the Palestinian leader said.
“We know we are a country under occupation, but we want our land which was occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem. Israel says Palestinian lands are disputed and open to negotiation, and is hurrying to build settlements, covering Jerusalem with settlements,” Abbas said.
He met earlier on Monday in Riyadh with Saudi King Abdullah, before traveling to Cairo for an Arab League meeting.
“President Abbas will attend the Assembly General session for the vote,” his spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said.
The announcement came amid heightened tit-for-tat attacks between the Israeli army and the Palestinians, with Israel’s military top brass weighing a stronger response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials have threatened punitive measures if the Palestinian initiative goes ahead, with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pledging to “ensure the collapse” of Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA).
Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh told a news conference in the West Bank town of Ramallah that he believed any response would be relatively limited.
“I think that most of these measures that have been declared will be empty threats,” he said.
“Israel has a vested interest in maintaining the status of the Palestinian Authority as it stands today and I don’t think that the Israelis are in a position to push this Palestinian Authority to a total collapse,” he said.
He added the Arab League had promised the PA a financial safety net in the event of punitive Israeli sanctions.