From: Sapa-AFP | Dispatch.co.za | September 21, 2011
Palestinian girls walk past graffiti at Dehaishe refugee camp in the West Bank town of Bethlehem yesterday. President Mahmoud Abbas has told the United Nations he will seek full UN membership for a Palestinian state, setting the stage for a showdown that could upset decades of Mideast diplomacy. Photo: Reuters
JEWISH leaders voiced regret yesterday at South Africa’s intention to support the United Nations’ recognition of an independent Palestinian state.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the SA Zionist Federation said an independent Palestinian state could only be realised through a process of negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Unilateral action by either party would retard the prospects of a lasting peace agreement.
"South Africa’s supporting a unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinians is contrary to the South African ethos of resolving differences through the give-and-take process of negotiations," the Jewish leaders said.
"Negotiations would also serve to build the necessary trust and understanding between the parties that will enable an Israeli and a Palestinian state to co-exist peacefully in the future."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday he would seek approval in high-level meetings this week for Palestine to become the 194th member of the United Nations, foreign news agency AP reported.
More than 120 of the 193 member states have already recognised a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with Israel, according to AP, quoting a Palestinian observer at the UN.
President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that South Africa would support Palestinian statehood.
Frantic diplomatic efforts gathered pace yesterday as the Palestinians rode roughshod over Israeli and US opposition.
Launching the opening gambit yesterday , Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called on the US to drop its fierce opposition.
"I hope that the United States will change its position and follow the majority of countries which want to support the Palestinian right to self-determination and an independent state," Maliki said, after meeting his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro.
Frustrated by the stalemate in the Middle East peace process, Abbas has vowed to submit a formal application to the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki- moon on Friday around midday.
The Palestinians argue they should be given full UN membership as a Palestinian state – something opposed by Israel and the US – as a bid to circumvent the dragging peace talks, which ground to a halt a year ago.
The US, one of five permanent members of the council, has said it would veto any Palestinian bid.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted on Monday the US was leading "extremely intensive" diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff.
The Palestinians were on their own diplomatic drive to drum up support.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday sent a letter to UN chief Ban backing the Palestinians’ bid.
"This represents an act of historic justice towards a people who carry with them, from time immemorial, all the pain and suffering of the world," he wrote.
And Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara also supported the Palestinians, adding: "I think it is now the right time to start a new, fresh, but inclusive and result-oriented negotiation on the Palestinian-Israeli issue."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for new direct negotiations with the Palestinians.