Palestinian Statehood Strategy Headed For U.N. Clash

Sep 18, 2011
Originally published on September 26, 2011 12:31 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly this Friday, and take his statehood bid directly to the Security Council.

Maen Rashid Areikat is the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative to the United States. He's part of the delegation that will introduce the bid at the U.N. this week. He explained the Palestinians' approach.

CORNISH: Well, the strategy is to elevate the Palestinian status from an observer status at the United Nations to that of a state. Right now, Israel claims that the occupied Palestinian territories, which are considered to be occupied by the rest of the world, including the United States, are occupied territories that are being controlled by the Israelis illegally.

If we can elevate the Palestinian status politically to the status of a state, we will be an occupied state by another member state of the United Nations. This will have political, moral and legal significance.

CORNISH: Now, knowing that the U.S., which has said that it would oppose this move on the Security Council, would veto this bid, is this essentially symbolic?

AREIKAT: First of all, we wish that the U.S. would not veto, especially at a time when other peoples in the region are rising up, calling for freedom and more self-determination. And the United States made it clear that they are in support of all these popular movements in different Arab countries in the region.

AREIKAT: why would the United States oppose the Palestinian request to be admitted at the United Nations?

CORNISH: Well, the argument is that they would want this process to go through peace talks, that there is a lot more conditions and complications here than in the other cases you're talking about.

AREIKAT: But we had peace talks for the last 20 years. Actually, three days ago, four days ago, we had the 18th anniversary of the Oslo Accords that were signed in 1993. What did we get as Palestinians in return of all the peace agreement that we made with Israel?

Israel planting our territories with illegal settlements. Israel refusal to sit down engage with us in a genuine, meaningful negotiations to end the conflict. We have been urging the Israelis to talk about security and borders, and the Israeli government - for more than one reason - are adamant about refusing to sit down with the Palestinians to discuss an end to the conflict.

CORNISH: This decision essentially puts the Obama administration in a bind, and U.S. officials were evidently unsuccessful in trying to dissuade Abbas from moving forward. So what effect do you think this could have on the Palestinian relationship with the U.S.?

AREIKAT: We have never sought confrontation with the U.S. administration. The United States has been trying to bridge the gaps between the sides. We have been forthcoming and receptive to every U.S. proposal. We worked with them on every suggestion and idea to move the process forward, and they know that very well. We don't want our relationship with the U.S. administration to sour or to deteriorate...

CORNISH: Well, you back them into a corner here with this vote.

AREIKAT: Yes, but we are not asking the United States to put itself in that corner. We didn't put the United States in that corner. The United States decided in May that if the Palestinians go to the U.N., they will use a veto. We are telling them this is not an American-Palestinian issue. This is an issue that has to do with Palestinian dignity and pride, and their efforts to become independent and free.

You should not look at it as an effort to undermine the United States or to undermine their efforts in bridging the gaps between the two.

CORNISH: Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization's ambassador to the United States. He joined us in our Washington studios.

Thank you so much.

AREIKAT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.