A year after UN vote, Palestinians eye continued diplomatic action

By Selim Saheb Ettaba ,AFP

JERUSALEM — A year after the Palestinians were granted non-member observer status by the United Nations, pressure is mounting on their leaders to exploit that position, rather than pursue peace talks few see bearing fruit. No official ceremony was scheduled Friday in the Palestinian territories to mark the historic Nov. 29, 2012 vote of the U.N. General Assembly. But in comments published Thursday by official news agency Wafa, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas pledged to do everything possible to establish a Palestinian state with its capital in Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

He said he would “never give up an ounce of the Palestinians’ demands nor sign a peace agreement that failed to meet the aspirations of the people.”

In a survey published this week, 50.5 percent of Palestinians questioned said they viewed his decision to renew peace talks with Israel in July as “a mistake,” and more than two-thirds expected the negotiations to fail. Abbas has committed to continue the talks for nine months and to take no action against Israel on the diplomatic front during that time in exchange for Israel’s release of 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners. So far 52 have been freed, with the remainder due for release in two stages as the talks continue. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat echoed Abbas’s words in remarks to journalists and diplomats in east Jerusalem on Friday, saying “you have our full commitment to negotiate for nine months.” But he expressed frustration with the process. “In the 120 days that I went to negotiate, this Israeli government managed to demolish 159 homes; they killed in cold blood 23 Palestinians; they announced the construction of 5.992 housing settlement units” Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi wants to take the statehood campaign into the international area right away. “I don’t see why we are always under pressure not to go, and to postpone (diplomatic initiatives),” she told an audience in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on Thursday evening. “That’s one problem that has plagued the peace talks — the exclusion of Palestine from enjoying the protection of (international) law,” she said.