President Mahmoud Abbas said he would demand full membership of the United Nations for a Palestinian state when he goes to the U.N. General Assembly next week, setting up a diplomatic clash with Israel and the United States. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
By Andrea Mitchell and Catherine Chomiak, NBC News
U.S officials are working feverishly to persuade the Palestinians to back down from what is still only a threat to go to the United Nations Security Council with their demand for immediate statehood.
On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he will request full membership at the United Nations when the General Assembly convenes next week.
One official told NBC News after Abbas's announcement that "this is a negotiation. They say they are doing it until they say they aren't doing it."
The U.S. has been resolute in its opposition to the proposed action and is engaged in frantic last-minute diplomatic discussions to try to head it off.
Just Thursday, Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the administration’s view, saying, "we believe strongly that the road to peace and two states living side-by-side does not go through New York. It goes through Jerusalem and Ramallah and it is our absolute conviction that we need to get the parties back to the negotiating table."
Clinton also recently dispatched two top Middle East diplomats to the region. U.S. envoys David Hale and Dennis Ross have met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. On the Palestinian side, they have met with Abbas and others.
According to an official, the diplomats are offering alternatives to UN action, including a fast track to new talks between the two sides and further pressure on Israel to stop its settlements policy.
Their efforts may be paying off, as the Palestinian Authority has not yet taken the first procedural step needed to introduce a statehood resolution to the Security Council.
Israelis and Palestinians discuss their views on the Palestinians push for statehood at the U.N.
The Palestinians would have to first send a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon requesting that a resolution be brought to the Security Council. Ban in turn would write to the Security Council. A member of the council would then have to bring it up on behalf of the Palestinians. A resolution would then have to be drafted, debated and amended before it could be brought to a vote.
The United States has said that it would veto such a resolution if it passes in the Security Council. In order for a resolution to pass it must have nine votes of the council’s 15 members. If the resolution were to get nine votes, the U.S. or another of the five permanent members could exercise veto power.
If the Palestinians either do not or cannot get the Security Council to vote on their resolution, they would seek the same status from the 193-member United Nations General Assembly. They will have overwhelming support in that body, and that would give them important leverage.
However, the U.S. position remains that UN action will not bring about a two-state solution with both sides living in peace and security. “We all know that no matter what happens or doesn’t happen at the UN, the next day is not going to result in the kind of changes that the United States wishes to see,” Clinton said.
Andrea Mitchell is NBC News' chief foreign affairs correspondent. Catherine Chomiak is NBC News' State Department producer.