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Abbas requests Palestinian statehood at the UN

Palestinians don’t want to return to “business as usual,” President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority says.

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President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority formally requested that the Security Council elevate Palestine to full United Nations membership on Friday.

As delegates at the 66th annual session of the UN General Assembly cheered and whistled, Abbas held up a copy of a letter requesting membership that he said he had handed to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a short time before, the New York Times reports. “The time has come,” he said.

Abbas said every previous peace effort had been “shattered on the rock” of Israeli settlements, the New York Times reports. “It is neither possible nor practical nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual,” he said.

Palestinians were armed “only with their hopes and dreams,” Abbas said.

Less than an hour later, it was Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s turn to address the General Assembly, and he took issue with that comment, CNN reports.

Netanyahu said that Palestinians are looking for a "state without peace,” and they are armed with “hopes, dreams — and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons flowing into Gaza." He added, "Palestinians should first make peace with Israel, and then get their state," a state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Representatives from the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union – known as the Quartet of Middle East mediators – issued a statement saying the bid is now before the U.N. Security Council, CNN reports. The Quartet also said that Israelis and Palestinians should meet in the next 30 days to agree on a format for talks designed to produce a peace agreement by the end of 2012.

While the U.S. has said it would block a Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership, it’s possible that the General Assembly could upgrade Palestine’s status from non-voting observer “entity” to permanent observer “state,” which is what the Vatican is, CNN reports.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek:

For Abbas, who may retire next year, [the UN bid was] a chance to carve out a legacy as father of a Palestinian state, if and when it is accepted as a UN member nation. His bureaucratic style, described by al-Omari as “deliberate and methodical,” has suffered by comparison with the animated, provocative style of Arafat, a born orator.

The Palestinians were never under any illusion they could walk away from this week as the 194th member of the world body. Yet by pushing the debate center stage, Abbas also got an unprecedented number of nations in the General Assembly to publicly speak out in support of Palestine as a viable state.

Eighty-three percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip support Abbas’s initiative, according to a poll released today by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.