By Colum Lynch
NEW YORK — The U.N. General Assembly is poised to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state” on Thursday, a move that will strengthen the Palestinians’ legal basis for pursuing possible war-crimes prosecutions against Israeli troops and set up a showdown with the United States and Israel.
Supporters hope the vote will provide a desperately needed political boost to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party has been eclipsed in recent weeks by rival Hamas, the militant movement whose fortunes have risen with those of its Islamist allies in Egypt and elsewhere.
The Palestinians are expected to win the Thursday vote by an overwhelming margin, according to U.N. diplomats. To date, 132 countries have recognized the state of Palestine.
“I think that the great majority of nations will vote with us because there is a global consensus on the two-state solution,” said Riyad Mansour, the Palestinians’ U.N. representative, adding that 60 states have agreed to co-
sponsor the resolution.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country would back the Palestinian quest, telling the French Parliament on Tuesday that Paris would support a resolution recognizing Palestine as an observer state, the same status accorded to the Vatican.
The vote is likely to roil U.N. diplomatic waters and highlight a rift in Europe over Palestinian statehood. It is also likely to provoke a diplomatic backlash from Israel and concern in Washington.
“We fear Abbas is heading for a dangerous Pyrrhic victory,” said a senior European diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity as per diplomatic protocol. “If the Palestinians believe it will push the Israelis into a negotiation, we don’t believe that. It might backfire for Abbas.”
The Obama administration has struggled to balance its support for Palestinian statehood and its endorsement of the Palestinian Authority’s position as the legitimate Palestinian leader while opposing the push for U.N. recognition. U.S. officials say a negotiated settlement with Israel is the only way to establish a Palestinian state.