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First Tunisia, then Egypt, next Palestine?

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Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki has a master plan to expedite Palestinian statehood [Reuters]By Kristen Saloomey

With Mideast peace talks at an impasse, Palestinians have been looking for another route to statehood: the United Nations.

“We are taking our destiny in our hands,” the Palestinian’s top UN diplomat told a small group of reporters in New York on Tuesday.

Ambassador Riyad Mansour predicted millions of Palestinians would take to the streets come September, when the UN General Assembly meets, to support the cause. He drew parallels to the peaceful Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“The battle for our independence is not only the battle of the Palestinian leadership. This is the battle of millions of Palestinians,” Mansour said.

“I believe the Palestinian people are capable and I believe also that they want to engage in this last chapter of the struggle of ending occupation.”

He said work is already underway behind the scenes at the United Nations, as he lobbies countries to recognize a Palestinian state.

Palestine is already recognized by 112 countries. But 130 would give them a 2/3 majority in the UN’s General Assembly - the number necessary to become an official member.

There’s just one problem; according to the UN Charter, a country cannot become a member state without first getting the support of nine members of the Security Council. The United States has indicated it will veto a statehood request, saying the only way is through direct negotiations with Israel.

Mansour said the Palestinians have “other options” but refused to elaborate.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki has said that the Palestinians will seek an emergency session of the General Assembly known as "Uniting for Peace" to override any veto.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss and Security Council diplomats have all said that membership is not possible without a referral by the Security Council. The legal question currently open to debate is whether or not a vote of support in the General Assembly would be anything more than symbolic.

For now, the Palestinians’ emphasis is on building international support for their statehood - and by extension putting pressure on the United States.

“What would be the argument of President Barack Obama in trying really to disregard this wish,” Mansour said, pointing to the President's stated admiration for democratic movements in Tunisia and Egypt. “Not only of the Palestinian leadership but the entire Palestinian population?”


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