UN set to recognise Palestinian state despite US, Israel threats

Palestine

The UN General Assembly is set to implicitly recognize a sovereign state of Palestine on Thursday despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding much-needed funds for the West Bank government.

A Palestinian resolution that would change the Palestinian Authority's UN observer status from "entity" to "non-member state," like the Vatican, is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation UN General Assembly.

Israel, the United States and a handful of other members are planning to vote against what they see as a largely symbolic and counterproductive move by the Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been leading the campaign to win support for the resolution, and over a dozen European governments have offered him their support after an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel's destruction and oppose his efforts toward a negotiated peace.

The US State Department said on Wednesday that Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and US Middle East peace envoy David Hale traveled to New York on Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to get Abbas to reconsider.

The Palestinians gave no sign they were turning back. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated to reporters in Washington on Wednesday the US view that the Palestinian move was misguided and efforts should focus instead on reviving the stalled Middle East peace process.

"The path to a two-state solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Palestinian people is through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not New York," she said. "The only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiations." State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated US warnings that the move could lead to a reduction of US economic support for the Palestinians. The Israelis have also warned they might take significant deductions out of monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinians' behalf.

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