Israel, Palestinians Will Vie For Support At UN

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel will focus on the fight against terrorism and the Palestinian Authority will focus on Palestinian independence in speeches at the United Nations General Assembly meeting, which opens in New York on Saturday.

For more than a year, Israel and the PA have been locked in a downward spiral of violence and terrorism.

Israel has demanded that the following conditions be met before negotiations resume; calm must prevail; and the PA must prevent further terrorist attacks and arrest wanted militants. The PA wants talks to resume without preconditions where they left off in January.

According to chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will use his speech to call for international intervention in the situation.

"President Arafat will call upon the United Nations community to put an end to the Israeli occupation," Erekat said in a telephone interview.

"[He will] call for implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Israel to the June 4 1967 borders and the creation of a Palestinian state," Erekat added.

During the last decade, Israel and the PLO entered into negotiations based on those resolutions, but differing interpretations of them have caused the conflict between the two sides to continue.

Of particular dispute is a call for the "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent [1967 war] conflict."

The Palestinians say that means all the lands previously occupied by Jordan and Egypt from 1948 to 1967, but those who penned the resolutions, including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Arthur Goldberg, were keenly aware that such a move would leave Israel indefensible and so they left the wording purposely ambiguous.

Some 200,000 Israelis now live in thriving Jewish communities in those disputed areas, which they view as part of their eternal Biblical inheritance.

PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo was quoted as saying that Arafat would call for international forces to protect the Palestinians and intervention to restart peace negotiations.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who will represent Israel at the General Assembly meeting, met with Arafat three times at two separate European venues last week. Peres said he told Arafat that he had to gain control of the territories and arrest terrorists.

The battle against terrorism will be Peres' theme at the General Assembly meeting.

"The foreign minister will focus on the meaning of world terrorism, the ways to stop terrorism in our region and the ways to find a political solution," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

"This year the General Assembly will meet [against the backdrop of] the terrorist attacks in the U.S. and it is predicted that many of the speeches will focus on combating world terrorism," he added.

Action on the sidelines

Speeches aside, what happens on the sidelines of the conference will likely be more important.

For Arafat, one of the biggest pluses would have been a meeting with President Bush, but according to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, that is not likely to happen. The big question is whether or not Bush would shake Arafat's hand if the two leaders had a chance meeting in the U.N. corridors.

After a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday, PA Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Sha'ath did not entirely rule out a meeting with either Bush or Powell.

On Thursday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that if Arafat came to New York Powell "would look forward to seeing him."

The annual General Assembly meeting, which will run from November 10-17, was postponed following the September 11 terror attacks in the U.S.

Two major U.S. newspapers said at the time that Powell had intended to present a new U.S. initiative for the Middle East at that meeting.

The administration has been under pressure by various Arab countries to become more involved in trying to work out an Israeli-Palestinian deal if it wants to maintain Arab and Muslim support in its fight against terrorism.

Washington has never released any details about such a plan, but President Bush has since said that the U.S. backs the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.

Boucher said on Thursday that Powell will not deliver any speeches at the General Assembly session.

Israel has said it is not anticipating any "surprises" from the U.S.