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CMEP Bulletin: After the UN: What's Next for the Peace Process?

Written by Churches for Middle East Peace
October 3, 2011

What’s Next at the UN?

The much anticipated and much feared Palestinian bid at the United Nations took place last week in the midst of a flurry of diplomatic activity. A bit anticlimactic in the lack of outcome, the recap of last Friday’s events neverthe less includes a few key events worth highlighting. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave a passionate appeal to the UN General Assembly calling for Palestinian independence, winning him a warm welcome when he returned to the West Bank.  A short time later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a “defiant” speech denouncing the UN and helping him secure more popular support in Israel.  Each leader has galvanized their base, but they did nothing in terms of reaching an agreement.  

Before his speech on Friday, President Abbas submitted the Palestinian’s application for full UN membership to the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who passed it onto the president of the Security Council. On Wednesday, the council had an informal meeting and agreed to have a formal meeting on Thursday to refer the Palestinian’s application to the Committee on the Admission of New Members.  

Under Rule 59 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council, the Committee is expected to examine the application and report its conclusions to the Council no less than 35 days before a regular session of the General Assembly or no less than 14 days before a Special Session.  This gives the international community time to come up with a formula acceptable to Israelis and Palestinians and avoid a vote. 

The Middle East Quartet attempted to present a plan acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians last Friday, but it appears to have fallen flat.  The Quartet, made up of representatives from the United States, European Union, Russian, and the UN) came up with a timeline to restart negotiations between the parties within a month, where “there will be a commitment by both sides that the objective of any negotiation is to reach an agreement within a timeframe agreed to by the parties but not longer than the end of 2012. The Quartet expects the parties to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security, and to have made substantial progress within six months.”

Palestinians raised objections to the statement.  On Thursday, top PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said, “The Palestinian leadership stresses clearly that it cannot accept holding negotiations that lack the minimum limits of responsibility and seriousness amid the continuation of settlements and stealing of land.” However he did note that the plan had “encouraging items.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government was slightly more enthusiastic about the statement, after the cabinet met for five hours Tuesday evening to discuss the plan.  They did not reach a consensus, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who represents the right wing in the cabinet, said this week that while he had reservations about the Quartet statement, “the fact that it calls for negotiations without preconditions is a great achievement for Israel.” Netanyahu has thus far avoiding making any official acceptance or rejection of the plan. 

See CMEP's updated resources on the UN initiative including analysis by Executive Director Warren Clark.

Click here to continue reading this CMEP Update, including the following items:

  • Congress gets serious
  • Tensions on the ground
  • Settlement expansion announced
  • Calls to annex the West Bank?
  • Happy New Year


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