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September 2011, Week 4

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Fri, 23 Sep 2011 23:02:47 -0400
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Palestinians Submit Statehood Request to UN

     President Mahmoud Abbas says time has come to end
     the suffering and the plight of millions of
     Palestinians.

23 Sep 2011 18:38
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/09/201192312433584593.html

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has handed over a
historic request to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, asking the
United Nations to admit the state of Palestine as a full
member.

The Palestinian leader won huge applause and a standing
ovation on Friday as he entered the hall just after
submitting the membership request.

"I call upon the distinguished members of the Security
Council to vote in favour of our full membership," Abbas
told the UN General Assembly.

"I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience
can reject our application for a full membership in the
United Nations and our admission as an independent
state," Abbas said.

In his address, Abbas said he was ready to return to
negotiations based on the 1967 borders, saying he did
not want to isolate or delegitimise Israel.

"Here I declare that the Palestine Liberation
Organisation is ready to return immediately to the
negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of
reference ... and a complete cessation of settlement
activities," he told the UN General Assembly.

But he maintained previous peace talks were "smashed
against the rocks of the positions of the Israeli
government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the
launch of negotiations last September".

Palestinians celebrate

Palestinians across the West Bank celebrated the formal
submission of their bid to become a United Nations
member state, despite opposition from the United States
and Israel.

In city centres, giant television screens were set up so
residents could watch Abbas deliver a historic address
to the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly.

In Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank,
many cars were flying the Palestinian flag. Posters of
Abbas and his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat,
festooned in the streets, as the crowd swelled to the
largest seen in Ramallah since Arafat's funeral in 2004.

"I've heard a chant tonight that I've never heard
before," Al Jazeera's Cal Perry, reporting from
Ramallah, said. "People are chanting for Mahmoud Abbas.
His speech was really playing to the next generation."

"Tonight we have seen spontaneous shows of support for
Abbas, who has sometimes seen cascading public support."

Near the Muqataa, Abbas's presidential headquarters,
flags of the more than 125 nations that have recognised
a Palestinian state flew in a circle around a
Palestinian flag.

Friday gatherings

In a sign of mounting tension earlier on Friday, one
Palestinian man died after being shot by Israeli troops
who intervened in a clash between villagers and Jewish
settlers south of the West Bank city of Nablus.

In the southern city of Hebron, the municipality
building was draped with a three-metre poster of Abbas
and "Palestine 194", and similar decorations were hung
in the northern cities of Nablus and Jenin.


At the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and
Jerusalem, the Israeli army fired tear gas into the
crowds, with a military spokeswoman saying "around 100
rioters" were throwing stones at the troops.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that clashes also
broke out in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras Al-
Amud.

In Nabi Saleh village, protesters chanted support for
the UN bid, but activists also burnt a picture of Barack
Obama, the US president, who has vowed to veto the
membership bid at the UN Security Council.

Full membership bid

Full UN membership can only be bestowed by the Security
Council where Abbas' request will almost certainly be
derailed, either by a failure to win the needed nine
votes in the 15-member body or, if the necessary
majority is obtained, by a veto.

The Palestinians say they are seeking full UN membership
to underscore their right to statehood, but have left
open the option of a lesser alternative - a non-member
observer state.

Such status would be granted by the General Assembly,
where the Palestinians maintain broad support.

Siding with Israel, Obama has said a Palestinian state
can only be established as a result of negotiations, and
that there is no short-cut to Palestinian independence.

"I extend my hand to the Palestinian people," Israeli
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during his own
address to the General Assembly, shortly after Abbas'
speech.

"The truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that
I want peace," he said.

Abbas has said negotiations remain his preference, but
that he will not resume talks - frozen since 2008 -
unless Israel agrees to the pre-1967 frontier as a
baseline and freezes all settlement construction on
occupied land.

"The American administration did everything in its power
to disrupt our project, but we are going through with it
despite the obstacles and the pressure because we are
asking for our rights," Abbas said late on Thursday.

"There are small countries in the world that have gained
their freedom and independence, but we still haven't got
ours," he told the Palestinian community in New York.

Palestinian state television has carried wall-to-wall
coverage of the diplomatic drama playing out in New
York, interviewing local officials and politicians and
running a series of advertisements backing the UN
membership push.

One featured a jigsaw puzzle of the globe as depicted in
the UN logo, but with with a missing piece.

From the side of the screen, a piece in the colours of
the Palestinian flag flies across and slots into place,
completing the puzzle.

'Palestine freedom'

The three main Palestinian newspapers also dedicated
their front pages to the bid, and the inside pages were
dotted with paid advertisements from individuals and
businesses expressing their support for Abbas and the UN
move.

"The president delivers his speech to the General
Assembly and presents a request for recognition of the
state of Palestine," read the headline in Al-Quds
newspaper, emblazoned over pictures of pro-bid
demonstrations.

Another cartoon in the paper used the famous image of US
soldiers raising their flag during the battle of Iwo
Jima, replacing the US flag with the Palestinian one and
the soldiers with Palestinians, some in traditional
garb.

Al-Ayyam's headline read: "The president presents a
request for full membership for Palestine in front of
the world", while on the back, a cartoon showed Abbas at
the UN podium shouting into a loudspeaker: "Freedom for
Palestine".

In the Gaza Strip, however, life was continuing as
normal with no sign of any activity to mark the UN bid,
which has not been backed by the territory's Hamas
rulers.

Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston said Hamas security
officials cracked down on people watching the Abbas
address in Gaza City cafes.

Our correspondent also said police confiscated
Palestinian flags that crowds were waving in the
streets.

Speaking hours before the Abbas address, senior Hamas
leader Ismail Haniyeh said the UN bid would not bring
independence.

"Our Palestinian people do not beg for a state ...
States are not built upon UN resolutions. States
liberate their land and establish their entities," he
said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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