On Friday, the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, will officially present a bid for a Palestinian state to be granted full membership of the United Nations. With only days to go before the vote, we asked our Observers in the West Bank and Gaza to tell us about their hopes and worries.
The United States has already announced it intends to veto the application, which means the UN Security Council will not recognize Palestine as a state. However, a Palestinian state could be granted non-member observer status if a majority of the UN General Assembly voted to do so. This status would allow the Palestinians to join various UN organisations such as UNESCO, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
In the past few days, clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank have ramped up, a worrying trend many blame on the tension created by the forthcoming vote.

“If Palestine became a real state, we would have the freedom to travel”

Hala Mohamed (not her real name) is a student at Al-Najah University in Nablus.
Students at my university have been demonstrating every day this week. We want people to hear our voices, and we want to stand by our president. Even if we fail, we’ll have tried.
I think the young people are more optimistic than the older generation. I’m definitely more optimistic than my mother! But there have been rallies at all levels here in Nablus – demonstrators have included children, office workers, bankers… even rabbis joined in.
We just want to be recognized by other countries as an independent country. Even if the United States uses its veto, recognition from other countries would mean something for us. And if Palestine became a real state, so many things could change in our lives. We would have the freedom to travel. [Israeli checkpoints make it difficult to do so.] I’m sure many other things in our lives would change, although I can’t really imagine it yet.
Life is already difficult here. If Palestine doesn’t get recognized, however, we may be even worse off. Settlers have been burning the olive trees around the city. They didn’t do that before; they’re becoming more aggressive, probably because of this bid. We are afraid that this is just a preview of what might happen later.”

"Whether this bid succeeds or not doesn’t make any difference

Mahmoud Omar is a Palestinian refugee from the village of Beit Tima in the Gaza strip. He currently lives in Cairo, Egypt.
I am against Mahmoud Abbas’s intiative because I do not recognize the Palestinian authority as legitimate. As far as I know, there have been no demonstrations in Gaza to support this move, and I don’t think there will be because Hamas declared that it did not support this irresponsible initiative.
This bid could have terrible consequences on the relative calm that the West Bank has recently seen, and lead to renewed clashes with Israeli settlers.
To me, whether this bid succeeds or not doesn’t make any difference. Palestine could gain observer status, like the Vatican, but so what? Would we be able to have Israel judged in front of an international court? No. [Israel has not ratified the Rome Statute, meaning it does not recognize the International Criminal Court.]”

“Since it won’t become a state in the strict sense, very little will change”

Ariel Woolf is Israeli. He lives in Efrat, a settlement established in 1983 in the West Bank.
There were a few protests in Efrat when Mahmoud Abbas made the announcement he would seek Palestinian statehood, but since then things have calmed down.
I expect this application to be approved by the General Assembly, but not validated by the Security Council. So, like most people here, I’m not really worried; since it won’t become a state in the strict sense, very little will really change. However, the fact that many countries are officially supporting a Palestinian state is not an advantage for us, though it’s no surprise, either.
I see this bid as a way for the Palestinians to say, we don’t need to negotiate and we don’t need you [Israel] in order to move forward. This attitude may have consequences – not military ones, but economic ones. In some areas, food and electricity come from Israel, and Israel may be less inclined to help them out in the future, though personally I hope this is not the case.
Of course, settlers are worried. This Palestinian strategy is interpreted by some as a declaration of war. If Palestine decides to open its borders to include the settlement, then that would be a declaration of war.
I am in favour of a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians’ demand that we go back to pre-1967 borders is simply unacceptable for Israel, because it wouldn’t be able to defend itself. Palestinians must understand that going back to the 1967 borders, in the current situation, would mean the end of Israel.
Currently, a Palestinian construction worker is helping me renovate my house. I really hope these good relations will continue. However if Friday’s decision – whatever it might be – leads to violence, the borders will be shut down and no one will be able to cross them anymore.”

“The state of Israel was created thanks to a UN resolution, so it would be logical for Palestine to follow the same path”

Abedalla lives in Gaza.
I don’t feel that people in Gaza are taking this initiative very seriously. They’re more concerned with their daily problems. Most people don’t really understand what is at stake, and that’s the Palestinian Authority’s fault. It has failed to explain the stakes.
Personally, however, I find this initiative very important and very positive. The state of Israel was created thanks to a UN resolution, so it would be logical for Palestine to follow the same path. But if the initiative were to fail, I wouldn’t be hugely disappointed. After all, we’ve become used to failure over these past 60 years. What would happen next? I don’t know… maybe Israel will become more aggressive against Palestinians. Maybe the situation will lead to a new Intifada, reflecting Palestinians’ anger against the international community.”