Palestinian Push For Statehood Comes To A Head

Originally published on September 21, 2011 11:54 am
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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Lourdes, thanks for being with us.

LOURDES GARCIA: You're welcome.

SIMON: And U.S. and European diplomats had been working hard to try and steer President Abbas away from this course. What does he risk by doing this?

GARCIA: And the U.S. Congress has also made its own threats. It says it may cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, leaving the P.A. unable to function. So it's a huge gamble.

SIMON: At the same time, what does Mahmoud Abbas possibly gain from this decision?

GARCIA: There's huge anger on the Palestinian side at the U.S. right now, which they believe is pro-Israeli. Abbas believes statehood will make the Palestinians equal partners in future negotiations with Israel; that it will strengthen their position, if you will. Negotiations, of course, will have to happen at some point. But with statehood in their pocket, they could be able to apply more legal pressure in bodies like the International Criminal Court against the Israeli occupation. But you know, Scott, these are uncharted waters, and we'll really have to see how this plays out.

SIMON: You touched on some of Israel's reaction. What are some of the other reactions there?

GARCIA: Well, Israel has pretty much admitted it can't stop the Palestinians from achieving statehood in the General Assembly, unlike in the Security Council. The more moderate voices in Israel say hey, let's get ahead of this. We should get involved in helping to shape the resolution backing statehood, but saying that key issues - like borders in Jerusalem, those issues that are closest to Israel's heart - should be left to future negotiations.

B: They say it's a huge mistake that could lead to violence and a complete legal vacuum in the West Bank. They've deployed extra troops into the West Bank over the past few weeks in anticipation of violence, riots, demonstrations.

SIMON: And what's the reaction of other Arab states?

GARCIA: Israel's also facing its own troubles because of this. It's increasingly isolated amid tensions with Turkey and Egypt. So this can exacerbate those.

SIMON: NPR's foreign correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, in Jerusalem. Thanks so much.

GARCIA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.