Washington, Sept. 13 - The Palestinian leadership seems committed to its plan of bringing a vote on statehood to the United Nations despite the danger that the move could destabilize the region and engulf it in violence, experts said on Monday.
“They feel they are on a path where they can’t back down, despite all the risks entailed” in such a politically “costly” move, Palestinian analyst and former Palestinian Authority negotiator Ghaith al-Omari told a panel at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
American and European diplomats are scrambling to return the Palestinian and Israelis to peace negotiations before the Palestinian Authority says it will unilaterally ask the UN for a vote on Palestinian statehood. Abbas is due to address the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 23.
The United States has vowed to veto a Palestinian request for U.N. membership in the Security Council. But the Palestinians have an automatic majority of Islamic and so-called “non-aligned” states in the General Assembly, whose resolutions have symbolic value but are not binding.
Most other countries have not taken a formal position and are waiting to see the text of a resolution.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said Monday that although the bloc does not have a unified view yet, “what we're very clear about from the European Union is that the way forward is negotiations.”
Whether or not Western mediators are able to water down Palestinian moves, managing the fallout from any UN vote must top the international agenda, the panelists said.
“The challenge is really what is going to happen in the day after,” al-Omari said. “The most immediate concern is the situation on the ground in the immediate aftermath of the vote.”
Both al-Omari and Washington Institute analyst David Makovsky said at the panel that continuing the close security cooperation between the Israeli military and Palestinian security forces will be essential.
The panelists said they feared a worse-case scenario, where a chaotic aftermath to heated UN vote engulfs the entire region in conflict. Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli intelligence chief, said that recent events in Istanbul and Egypt have shown the explosive potential of the Palestinian drive.
“If anything happens on the ground in Palestine, in Israel, there are many who would love to join,” he said.