Palestinians took the first step toward raising their status at the United Nations from an observer to a nonmember observer state Thursday by circulating a draft resolution to the 193 UN member states and asking for their support.

The Palestinian observer mission said no decision has been made on when to submit the draft resolution to the UN General Assembly for a vote. Arab League foreign ministers are expected to discuss the draft and the timing of its submission at a meeting in Cairo on Nov. 12 and 13, a Palestinian diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

A letter from the observer mission accompanying the draft resolution asks UN members to support "the enhancement of the status of Palestine in the United Nations General Assembly to be considered by the assembly at a date to be announced in the near future."


President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas addresses the UN General Assembly in New York, on Sept. 27, a year after the failed effort to obtain full membership through the Security Council, a step the Obama administration blocked. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

There are no vetoes in the General Assembly and the resolution is almost certain to be approved by the world body, which is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Approval of the resolution would elevate the Palestinians to the same status as the Vatican. The draft resolution states that to date, 132 nations have recognized "the State of Palestine."

Israel and the United States are on record opposing the move, saying the Palestinians should first negotiate their statehood with the Jewish state, not take unilateral action and sidestep talks.

The draft resolution, first tweeted by Inner City Press and later obtained by The Associated Press, would have the General Assembly decide "to accord to Palestine Observer State status in the United Nations system, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on Sept. 27. He indicated that Palestinian leaders planned to shake up the 19-year-old peace process and proceed with a United Nations statehood bid in November.

The upgraded status would add weight to Palestinian claims for a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.

The Palestinians also hope to use their upgraded status to join additional UN bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, where they could attempt to prosecute Israel.

At the same time, they have expressed fear of financial and diplomatic retaliation.

Following last year's move by the Palestinians to join the UN cultural agency UNESCO, the United States withheld funds from the organization, which amount to 22 per cent of its budget. The U.S. also withheld money to the Palestinians, and the U.S. Congress has threatened similar sanctions if the Palestinians proceed to improve their status at the UN again.

Israel also retaliated by accelerating settlement construction and withholding funds from the Palestinian government.

U.S. blocked member state bid

In September 2011, the Palestinians submitted an application to become a UN member state, but that requires approval from the UN Security Council and the United States made clear it would veto the bid until there is a final settlement with Israel so the application has languished.

The draft resolution expresses hope that the Security Council will consider the application for full membership favourably.

It "reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the basis of the pre-1967 borders."

The draft expresses "the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process" to achieve "a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides that resolves all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security, water and prisoners."

It also affirms determination to achieve a peaceful settlement that ends Israel's occupation and fulfils "the vision of two states, an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours."