President Mahmoud Abbas will seek recognition of Palestine as an observer state in the United Nations today. As an observer state, Palestine would have the same status at the U.N. as the Vatican, but not full legal recognition. It is considered a historic move that is expected to pass, even if some major countries like the U.S., Germany and Israel do not support it.
A non-member observer Palestinian state would include the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Abbas' Fatah faction only rules in part of the West Bank, while the militant Islamist organization Hamas controls Gaza.
Despite previously opposing the move, Hamas now supports Abbas in his efforts. Last year, Abbas failed to win full U.N. membership for a Palestinian state.
The United States opposes even the limited recognition Palestinians seek today, claiming it will endanger negotiations with Israel. The Israeli government dismisses the efforts, saying it will not change anything on the ground.
However, a majority of the General Assembly's 193 members are expected to vote yes. European nations like France, Spain and Switzerland have publicly claimed their support for recognition.
The recent conflict in Gaza brought Hamas legitimacy among Palestinians, a development that has outside observers worried that Israel will now have to negotiate peace with a militant organization. A win in the U.N. could boost the position of President Abbas, who wants to solve the Israel/Palestinian conflict through diplomacy instead of war.
Diplomats negotiated a ceasefire between Hamas in Gaza and Israel last week after eight days of fighting and more than 160 people dead.
"We are going to the United Nations to upgrade the status of Palestine to an observer state at the U.N. And this is the first step to accomplish our Palestinian rights," - President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority (through translator).
"The only way to make life better for both Israelis and Palestinians, to solve the issues that separate us, is through peace talks, direct peace talks, and we are ready," - Mark Regev, spokesperson, Israeli government.
1. What do you know about Hamas?
2. Where is Gaza? What just happened there?
3. What is the United Nations?
1. Do you think the U.N. should recognize Palestine as an observer state? Why or why not?
2. Why do you think the US is against recognition when several European countries are for it?
3. Why are the Palestinians and the Israelis fighting, and how do you think the conflict should be solved?
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