RAMALLAH, West Bank – Palestinians are launching a last-minute diplomatic offensive to a series of European countries to vote in favor of their partial statehood bid at the United Nations, a senior official said Wednesday.
Palestinian envoys were dispatched to Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Finland this week, hoping to persuade those countries to vote in favor of giving Palestinians non-member observer status at the U.N. Some of the countries are opposed, and others are undecided.
"We are urging them to vote in favor of the Palestinian proposal," said Palestinian foreign affairs minister Riad Malki said. "We hope this will clarify the picture for those countries."
Palestinians say they intend to ask the U.N.'s General Assembly to vote on the matter on either Nov. 15 or Nov. 29.
Israel and the United States are opposed to the move, saying Palestinians should negotiate their statehood with the Jewish state, not conduct unilateral moves. Palestinians say they fear financial and diplomatic retaliation, but neither the U.S. nor Israel have commented on the move.
Israel is conducting a diplomatic counter-offensive, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.
The passage of the vote is assured in the 193-member assembly, dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Palestinians are seeking what they call a "quality" majority, where European countries also vote in favor, giving the move more diplomatic weight. Germany and Britain appear cool on the move.
Last year Palestinians tried and failed to achieve status as a full member state at the U.N. Security Council.
The upgraded status would add weight to Palestinian claims for a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.
Palestinians hope to use upgraded status to join additional U.N. bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, where they could attempt to prosecute Israel.
Also Wednesday, an official close to the Palestinian prime minister said he had threatened to resign after facing a series of unprecedented protests against his rule, as his government weathers a sharp cash crunch.
The official said Salam Fayyad believed he hadn't received enough support from other political factions. The dominant Palestinian party, Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, incited protests against Fayyad, demanding his resignation.
The official said Fayyad and Abbas were expected to discuss the matter later Wednesday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Fayyad, an internationally respected economist, has been forced to raise taxes and delay salary payments to civil servants because of the financial crisis. He has said he had no choice, because foreign donors have not delivered promised aid.
Abbas's office denied Fayyad threatened to resign.