Palestinians Not Sure of Security Council Majority

New York, Sept 20 – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not nailed down the nine votes he needs in the United Nations Security Council to even get the world body to vote on his unilateral bid for full U.N. membership, western diplomats said this week.

One western ambassador said that according to his count, the Palestinians were at least one and possibly two votes short, with several members of the Security Council yet to announce their positions. Abbas has said he would formally submit the membership bid after delivering a speech to the United Nations on Friday.

“After all this time, the Palestinians have still not secured nine votes,” the senior diplomat said in a conversation with representatives from The Israel Project. Other sources said an actual vote might be put on hold for several weeks to allow the parties to avoid a showdown.

The Palestinian bid for membership is certain to fail in any case because the United States has promised to veto the resolution if necessary. Like Israel, President Barack Obama has made it clear that the U.N. move is a distraction and that peace can only be achieved through negotiations.

Under Security Council rules, a resolution requires nine positive votes and no vetoes from any of the permanent five members in order to win approval. The United States, Germany and Colombia are expected to oppose. Britain, France, Portugal, Bosnia, Nigeria and Gabon have not announced their positions.

"We decided to take this step and all hell has broke out against us,"Abbas said on Monday. "From now until I give the speech, we have only one choice: going to the Security Council. Afterwards, we will sit and decide."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the United Nations shortly after Abbas on Friday. “I think we should go there and present our truth… of a people attacked over and over by those opposed to their very existence. That is the most basic truth," he said before leaving Israel.

Also on Tuesday, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said in an interview that Israel “is ready to negotiate tomorrow,” with the Palestinians.

Prosor discussed attempts to arrange a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu while they were both in New York.

“We repeat that we are ready for negotiations with no conditions even early tomorrow morning,” the Israel envoy said.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said diplomats were still hoping to avert a crisis. A vote would be unlikely to take place on Friday, giving time for diplomacy aimed at restarting peace talks, he told Europe 1 radio.

"There's a procedure for dealing with such requests and it can take a few days or weeks more, which means there is room for other initiatives," Juppe said. "We hope to find a way of convincing all involved to get back around the negotiating table, and in a serious fashion."

If Abbas fails to muster nine votes in the Security Council, that would be seen as a stinging defeat. He could then go to the General Assembly and win a symbolic majority with the backing of non-aligned states, many of which are also non-democratic – but GA decisions are not binding on the world body and have no significance under international law.

Abbas also has to deal with the possible economic fallout of his move for the people of the West Bank. The U.S. Congress may cut the roughly $500 million in U.S. aid per year to the Palestinians if they go ahead with their U.N. bid.

"Really, the risk of PA collapse is very real under the financial strain," said Jihad al-Wazir, the Palestinian Authority's central bank chief.

Saudi Arabia said on Monday it would pay the Palestinian Authority $200 million, which could help in the short term but would not fully replace lost U.S. funding.


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