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Israel opposes Palestinian bid to join United Nations

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By USA Today
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:10 p.m.

BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Israelis said a Palestinian appeal to the United Nations on Thursday for nonvoting membership will make peace less likely, and some Palestinians have reservations, too.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to ask the U.N. General Assembly to grant nonmember observer status to the Palestinian Authority for the West Bank and Gaza.

Khalil Ebed Allah, 57, who lives in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, worries that Israel, which gives the Palestinian Authority a percentage of taxes Palestinian workers pay to Israel, will keep its promise to withhold their money if the United Nations upgrades the Palestinians' status.

“There could be American sanctions, too,” Allah said.

Israel and the United States are concerned that the Palestinians are trying to create a state without negotiating a lasting peace with Israel and solving once and for all the issues that have prevented a resolution to the conflict.

Palestinians are “trying to grab statehood without having to compromise with Israel,” said David Weinberg, director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank in Israel.

Rather than leading to a Palestinian state or improving the prospects for negotiations with Israel, the bid will do the opposite, Weinberg said. “It will harden positions on all sides and force Israel to take actions against Abbas' authority that will set any chances of real peace emerging back for years.”

Among the issues to be decided are the status of Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim for a capital, the details of borders and security, mutual recognition and refugee claims.

Palestinian leaders are pressing ahead, arguing that improving their status at the United Nations will give them better bargaining power against Israel, which they say has been stalling on negotiations while expanding settlements on land Palestinians want for a state.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization and former peace negotiator, said upgrading Palestinian status in the United Nations from observer to nonmember state status will “enshrine our right to self-determination and statehood” and “help prevent Israel from destroying the chances for peace.”

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