Today is President Obama’s last chance to persuade the Palestinians to abandon their bid for full U.N. membership, and to avoid a potentially embarrassing vote in the Security Council tomorrow. It comes as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shows no signs of backing down. In an effort to prevent a showdown, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Abbas last night, warning him of the United States’ plans to veto any Security Council move to recognize Palestinian statehood. Abbas is expected to offer his application for membership after addressing the General Assembly tomorrow. Earlier yesterday, while speaking to world leaders at the U.N., President Obama called on both Palestinians and Israelis to get back to negotiations. He said, “There is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.”
After his speech, President Obama met one-on-one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who praised the President for his General Assembly remarks. Netanyahu said, “I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle, which is also I think the right position to achieve peace, I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor.”
French President Nicholas Sarkozy is seeking a middle ground between the Palestinian bid and the United States plan to block membership. Sarkozy is calling on the U.N. to admit the Palestinians as a non-member state, upgrading their status as observers. Non-member status requires a straight majority vote in the General Assembly and vetoes are not possible. President Obama has not commented on Sarkozy’s proposal, which could potentially undermine the United States’ approach. However, an Obama adviser says that while they may not agree on the U.N., there are still plenty of areas where the U.S. can work with the French on achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.