Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad H. Mansour Discusses U.N. Moves

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad H. Mansour Discusses U.N. Moves

Article excerpt

Six weeks after Palestine applied for membership in the U.N. and the day after it was granted membership in UNESCO, Palestine's permanent observer to the U.N., Ambassador Riyad Mansour, spoke at New York University's Global Leaders Forum. He described the preparations for the application as a huge effort that proceeded along two tracks. Two years ago, he said, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, with the support of the international community, began building the institutions of state. This was completed by August, when the World Bank, IMF and U.N. pronounced the Palestinian people ready to govern themselves. During the same period, Mansour continued, Palestinian representatives sought and gained the support of 131 U.N. member countries-more than enough for a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. In order for the application to reach the General Assembly, however, the Security Council must first vote on recommending it, and there some-the Palestinian diplomat did not name names, but undoubtedly it was the U.S.-tell the Palestinians, "you have to wait because Israel is not ready." If Palestine fails to gain a Security Council recommendation, he added, it would not be the first to fail on an initial application. It took Israel, Jordan and Italy, among others, several attempts.

Mansour questioned how Palestine could threaten or cause harm to anyone by being in UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Yet two parties were unhappy with Palestine's successful bid to become a member, and both have imposed "a price tag as punishment." Mansour noted that congressional resolutions requiring the U.S. to withhold payment to any U.N. organization that accepts Palestine were passed at a time when Washington labeled the PLO a terrorist organization. This being no longer the case, Mansour hoped the U.S. would find a way to continue paying its assessment. Israel retaliated at once by announcing the building of 2,000 new illegal settlement units and "hijacking $100 million of our tax money." Even when it does not withhold the money, Mansour added, Israel takes 3 percent of the total collected for providing a service that Palestinians would rather do themselves.

Asked about Hamas and its alleged desire "to liquidate Israel," Mansour first pointed out that failure to achieve peace produces extremists on both sides-for example, Israel's Soviet-born Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in an illegal West Bank settlement. The ambassador then observed that Hamas not only has agreed to elections on all levels within the year, but has accepted a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. Within a Palestinian state, Mansour said, Israeli settlers would have two options: they can return to Israel, or would be welcome to remain as Palestinian citizens. Because Palestinians are sensitive to the fact that Israel trusts no one, he said, they have agreed to have up to 150,000 NATO, EU or U.N. soldiers on their side of the border-but no Israeli soldiers.

Whatever happens at the U.N., Mansour assured the audience that Palestine is committed to peace with Israel and to negotiating the final status issues. Pointing out that neither the U.S. in 1776 nor Israel in 1948 asked anyone's permission to declare their independence, Mansour insisted that the only issue not up for negotiation is Palestine's right to self-determination.

Jenin Freedom Theatre Performs Adaptation of "Waiting for Godot"

"Waiting for Godot," Samuel Beckett's challenging minimalist play in which nothing happens, is not an obvious choice for an acting school's graduation project, but it perfectly fit the needs of the students at the Jenin Freedom Theatre. Its founder, Juliano Mer-Khamis, was mysteriously murdered last April in a case that remains unsolved. Israeli soldiers subsequently raided the premises twice, arbitrarily arresting some staff members and students.

Mer-Khamis' colleague, Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni, adapted Beckett's play under the title "While Waiting," and an Oct. …

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