Palestinians launch U.N. membership campaign

The Palestinians have officially launched their bid to join the United Nations as a full member state, saying they will stage a series of peaceful events ahead of the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly later this month.

About 100 Palestinian officials and activists gathered at the U.N. offices in Ramallah for a short ceremony, where they announced their plans in a letter addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is currently visiting Australia.

The campaign seeks recognition of an independent Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem - areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, UKPA reports, which Israel rejects.

The letter urges Ban to add his "moral voice in support of the Palestinian people", UKPA reports.

UKPA reports:

The letter was handed over by Latifa Abu Hmeid, a 70-year-old woman who lost one son in fighting with Israel and has seven other sons in Israeli prisons because of alleged militant activities.

Officials said Ms Abu Hmeid was selected to deliver the document because her personal story reflects the plight of the Palestinians.

A resident of a West Bank refugee camp, her house has twice been demolished by Israeli authorities as punishment for her sons' activities, they said.

The Palestinians have decided to turn to the UN to recognise their independence after two decades of unsuccessful peace efforts with Israel.

The latest round of talks between Israel and Palestine broke down a year ago.

While any U.N. vote will really just be symbolic, the Palestinians believe international support will aid in their attempt to turn the heat up on Israel if negotiations start again.

Israel has been lobbying the international community to oppose the vote, saying peace can only be achieved through negotiation.

The letter says the campaign will include a series of peaceful events "in various international cities and capitals" leading up to the September 21 opening of the General Assembly.

Two days later, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the gathering in New York and ask for membership to the United Nations.

The United States is expected to veto any request in the council.

The Palestinians could then seek admission as a "non-member state" of the General Assembly, like the Vatican.

However, The Obama administration has called for negotiations for a Palestinian state with borders based on the 1967 boundaries, with mutually agreed land swaps, the New York Times reports.