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Palestine bid a test for Obama

US and PNA lobby for support from four 'undecided' security council members

Gulf News

Dubai: US President Barack Obama is probably going through his ‘worst week' as he heads to the United Nations with the Palestinian statehood issue at boiling point, political experts in the region said.

The American foreign policy faces a ‘trial' at a time when the whole region is undergoing fundamental changes with unrest sweeping several countries. Any anti-Palestinian stand by Washington could carry unprecedented repercussions, they added. "It will be a litmus test [for Obama]," said Hani Al Masri, a West-Bank based political expert.

Obama will embark on a diplomatic marathon on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week to avoid using the veto against the Palestinian move either by ensuring it does not receive the minimum number of votes or by reaching an agreement on another plan at the 15-member Security Council, Al Masri told Gulf News. A minimum of nine votes are needed to pass the Palestinian plan. The US and many European countries have been saying the move will endanger the peace process, and it will be opposed.

Analysts noted that both the US and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) are lobbying to win the support of Gabon, Nigeria, Portugal and Colombia — the four, yet undecided countries after Lebanon, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, India and China said they will support the Palestinian endeavour for statehood.

A last minute surprise move by the US is not ruled out, said Mahdi Abdul Hadi, head of Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (Passia).

Out of "personal account and self dignity and to meet the Arab awakening", Obama could resort to an option other than using the veto, Hadi explained to Gulf News, relating this week's circumstances with those of 1947 when the UN resolution 181 was issued. The resolution called for partitioning historical Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish state. That time, Mahdi said, the State Department supported an international mandate. But at the last minute, then US president Harry Truman supported the establishment of Israel.

While the US president hopes to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, there is no meeting planned with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas will submit a request seeking UN membership from the Security Council after addressing the General Assembly on Friday.

BBC poll: Backing for statehood

A global poll showed a noticeable public support to the Palestinian effort to seek statehood.

The poll, which was conducted for BBC World Service and covered 20,446 in 19 different countries, concluded that more citizens would prefer to see their governments vote in favour of the Palestinian plan when it is submitted to the UN.

According to a BBC press release sent to Gulf News, in the countries surveyed, 49 per cent back the resolution, 21 per cent say their government should oppose it, and 30 per cent say either their governments should abstain or they are not sure what their countries should do.

The top three "supporting people" were in Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan. While the three top countries with high level of opposition are US, India and Philippines.