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Palestinian Statehood Almost Set

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Britain to vote ‘Yes’ to Palestinian bid if Israel peace talks resume

LONDON, UNITED NATIONS (Al Arabiya / AFP) Britain is prepared to back a key vote recognizing Palestinian statehood at the United Nations on Thursday, but only if Palestinians agree to re-enter peace talks with Israel, British newspapers reported.

Foreign Secretary William Hague will reportedly tell members of the British parliament that the UK is “willing to vote in favor of Palestinians having non-member status at the United Nations” if Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agrees to re-enter talks with Israel without preconditions, the Daily Mail reported.

Britain’s backing of the bid is needed, Abbas has said, in part because of its historic responsibility for Palestine. But Britain has previously refused, citing strong U.S. and Israeli objections and fears of long-term damage to prospects for negotiations.

France said on Tuesday it would vote in favor of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations, an important boost in Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition.

The Palestinians have lobbied for support from European countries for their bid at watered-down statehood at the U.N. set for two days time. While Israel has lobbied against them, the Palestinians are set for a sure victory in the 193-member world body made up mostly of developing countries long sympathetic to their cause.

“This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced in the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

“It is only with negotiations between the two sides that we demand immediately without any preconditions that a Palestinian state can become a reality,” he said.

Switzerland said Wednesday it will vote in favor of the Palestinian bid for enhanced status at the United Nations, echoing similar announcements by a slew of other nations.

The Palestinian draft resolution to be voted on at the UN General Assembly on Thursday was “both constructive and pragmatic”, the Federal Council said in a statement.

It said its decision chimed with Switzerland’s policy to seek “a negotiated, just, and durable peace between Israel and an independent and viable Palestinian state within secure and internationally recognized borders.”

Palestinian officials keen on solidifying as much European favor as they can in the hours before the vote have indicated they will not immediately seek to accede to the International Criminal Court (ICC), addressing a last international concern.

Israeli, British and U.S. diplomats, apparently realizing that they can no longer sway the Palestinians’ in their whole bid, are now seeking guarantees that Palestinians would forego filing complaints against Israel in the court.

Palestinian officials have refused. But, appearing to balance their tone, say the timing and strategy of their eventual ICC accession is a matter for later internal discussion.

“It is our right, and we will not abandon it. We will decide on the proper timing, given our priorities and best interests,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a leading voice of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“It’s not for any country to get the Palestinians to relinquish their rights. And if Israel is innocent, it has nothing to fear from the court,” she told Reuters.

Britain, which in recent weeks had pushed European countries to abstain on the statehood vote, has requested that Palestinians foreswear applying to the International Criminal Court in return for changing the British vote to a “yes.”

The ICC is not an official organ of the United Nations, but generally accepts applications from its members.

Israel has at times cancelled visits by officials to Britain out of fear of war crimes litigation there. It is concerned that future Palestinian claims at the court could focus on its leaders and undermine its standing abroad.

Statehood

The Palestinian bid for U.N. recognition on Thursday could bring president Mahmud Abbas new diplomatic weight and tools but also cost his people hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed cash.

Abbas is assured of triumph at the U.N. General Assembly when he seeks backing for his bid to go from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state.” The United States and Israel will not be able to spoil his big day.

Victory will not give the Palestinians a vote at the 193-member assembly. But they will be able to join a number of U.N. agencies and sign treaties for which the U.N. secretary general is the record keeper.

The vote “implies recognition of statehood and it gives them certain privileges” and “a certain prestige,” said Vera Jelinek, dean of New York University’s Center for Global Affairs.

The Palestinians will be able to go to U.N. conferences open to all states and to vote like other states.

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