Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in New York ahead of a crucial week as he prepares to present a formal demand to the UN for an independent homeland.
He says he anticipates a “very difficult situation” at the United Nations over his request for full UN membership for a Palestinian state.
The US says it will veto the move; the Americans and Israel believe statehood can only be achieved through direct negotiation.
The weekend saw a series of last-ditch meetings in New York to try to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The Quartet of Middle East mediators and others are trying to avoid a diplomatic confrontation.
The Quartet’s envoy, former British prime minister Tony Blair, acknowledged that a significant gap had to be bridged.
“In a sense, some people are here this week and say: negotiations have failed, we have had enough, let’s declare statehood. And other people say, well, the only way we get a state is through negotiation, so let’s have negotiations,” he said.
“My point is very simple, that what we should aim for this week is to have a significant advancement of Palestinian statehood and the negotiation restarted, because that then allows us to combine strong support from the international community for Palestinian statehood with a relaunched and revitalised new negotiation. That is the best thing and the best way of delivering justice for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis,” he went on.
In Bethlehem, Palestinians staged parades in anticipation of the statehood bid.
The West Bank leadership has been frustrated by its inability to win concessions from Israel. With little sign of progress, it is pinning its hopes on the UN route.
But it is a high-risk strategy: failure to attract significant support could play into Israel’s hands, and boost the standing of Hamas, far less eager to negotiate a two-state agreement.