WASHINGTON – The United States has launched a last ditch diplomatic drive to persuade Palestinians to scrap their plan to seek U.N. recognition as a state, The New York Times said Saturday.
But the move may be too late, the newspaper said, citing unnamed senior U.S. officials and foreign diplomats.
The administration of President Barack Obama has circulated a proposal for renewed peace talks with the Israelis in the hope of persuading Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to abandon his bid for recognition at the United Nations General Assembly, which opens September 20, the report said.
Israel has firmly opposed the Palestinian membership bid, which comes as talks between the two sides have been frozen for nearly a year after grinding to a halt over Israel's continued settlement construction.
The United States argues that the Palestinians will only achieve meaningful statehood through a revival of direct peace talks with Israel and has warned it will veto the bid in the Security Council.
The administration has made it clear to Abbas that it will veto any request presented to the U.N. Security Council to make a Palestinian state a new member outright, the paper said.
But the United States does not have enough support to block a vote by the General Assembly to elevate the status of the Palestinians’ nonvoting observer "entity" to that of a nonvoting observer state, The Times said.
The change would pave the way for the Palestinians to join dozens of U.N. bodies and conventions, which will strengthen their ability to pursue cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court, the daily added.
Senior officials said the administration wanted to avoid not only a veto but also the more symbolic General Assembly vote that would leave the United States and only a handful of other nations in the opposition, the report said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they feared that in either case a wave of anger could sweep the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world at a time when the region is already in tumult.
"If you put the alternative out there, then you’ve suddenly just changed the circumstances and changed the dynamic," the paper quoted a senior administration official as saying. "And that’s what we’re trying very much to do."
Obama will be in New York between September 19 and 21, the White House said.