Jan 7, 2013

Defying U.S., Abbas Orders 'State of Palestine' Terminology

Patrick GoodenoughBy Patrick Goodenough
CNS News

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Five weeks after the Obama administration asserted that a United Nations vote on upgrading the Palestinian entity’s status "does not establish that Palestine is a state," Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday ordered that all references to the Palestinian Authority be changed to the "State of Palestine."

From passports to postage stamps, diplomatic mission titles to official stationery, the name of a state that does not legally exist will replace that of the self-rule administration established under the Oslo Accords, brokered by the Clinton administration in the early 1990s.

Abbas issued the decree instructing the change several days after saying during an event in Ramallah that the U.N. vote constituted the "birth certificate" of the state.

On November 29, the U.N. General Assembly voted by an overwhelming margin to grant "non-member observer state" status to the P.A.

UNGA resolutions are not legally binding; the declaration of a new state requires a Security Council resolution, followed by endorsement from two-thirds of the General Assembly. An attempt by Abbas to get Security Council backing failed in 2011.

The United States was one of just nine countries to vote "no" in November, and Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said afterwards that "today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state."

Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas issues decree to officially use the words "State of Palestine" on public documents"

Abbas is undeterred, however. The official P.A. news agency Wafa reported that he has instructed all institutions to make the name changes with immediate effect, in order to enhance "sovereignty on the ground."

The P.A. mission to the U.N. in New York had pre-empted the move, posting a message on its website weeks ago stating that "the official title of the Palestine mission has been changed to The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations. The website will undergo the necessary maintenance to reflect this change in the near future."

Many P.A. diplomatic offices around the world have also altered the official titles on their websites, from "general delegation" to "mission" or "diplomatic mission."

There was no immediate reaction to the decree from Israel's foreign ministry or the State Department.

The Obama administration has requested $440 million in foreign assistance funds for the West Bank and Gaza in fiscal year 2013.

Abbas' instructions may be partly aimed at rallying support at a time when Palestinians have been protesting against corruption, economic mismanagement, the slow pace of reform and other issues.

On Sunday an imprisoned senior member of Abbas' Fatah party issued a statement through his lawyers calling for a "Palestinian spring" to pressurize Palestinian leaders to "end the occupation" and mend the Fatah-Hamas rift, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life sentences in Israel for the murder of five people in terror attacks, is a popular figure in Fatah who predicts he will one day be "president of Palestine."

The Oslo Accords handed Abbas' predecessor Yasser Arafat control, either entirely or in conjunction with Israel, over parts of the West Bank accounting for some 95 percent of its Palestinian population, as well as the Gaza Strip.

In 2005 Israel evacuated all Jewish communities from Gaza, and two years later Hamas, after winning legislative elections, violently wrested power of the territory from Fatah.

The Hamas-Fatah rupture remains unhealed although last week Hamas, for the first time since it seized control of Gaza, allowed Fatah to hold a rally there to mark its 48th anniversary.