NEW YORK - In a milestone for their cherished dream of statehood, the Palestinians have won European support for their bid for UN recognition of a state of Palestine, despite pressures from Israel and chief ally the United States.
"This constitutes a historical turning point and opportunity for the world to rectify a grave historical injustice that the Palestinians have undergone since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Hanan Ashrawi said, Reuters reported.
"Now the people of this land, with enormous solidarity, is telling the whole world not only that we exist, but we are on our land and we have a right to self-determination and statehood.
The UN General Assembly will vote Thursday, November 29, on a Palestinian request to upgrade their status to a non-member observer state.
Palestinians expect two-thirds of the Assembly's 193 members would support their bid for upgraded status.
If approved, the upgrade will give the Palestinians access to a range of UN agencies, including the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Palestinian UN bid won support on Wednesday from several European states.
"This Thursday or Friday, when the question is asked, France will vote yes," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced in the French National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and Austria also said they would vote for upgrading the Palestinian UN status.
The Palestinian bid, however, is opposed by some European countries as Germany, which joined Israel and the US in saying that the only genuine route to statehood is via a peace agreement made in direct talks with Israel.
Britain also said that it wants assurances that the Palestinians would not sue Israel at the ICC in order to back the Palestinian bid.
"Up until the time of the vote itself, we will remain open to voting in favor of the resolution, if we see public assurances by the Palestinians on these points," Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
"However, in the absence of these assurances, the UK would abstain on the vote.
Palestinian officials have complained of mounting Western pressures to rescind their UN statehood bid.
"We have not succumbed to pressure, we did not give any commitment," Ashrawi said.
Israel and the United States have mooted withholding aid and tax revenue for the Palestinians over their UN bid.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has also viewed options that include bringing down Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel fears that the Palestinians could use their new-found UN status to take legal action against Israeli officials.
But Ashrawi said there were no plans to go immediately before the ICC to sue Israel.
"We haven't decided that tomorrow we are going to be recognized as a state and the day after, we are going to the International Criminal Court," she said.
"We said that we deserve that right, as we see fit and at the proper time.
US-sponsored talks between the Palestinians and Israel collapsed last year over Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to halt settlement building in the occupied West Bank."If Israel refrains from settlement activities and so on... there's no immediate pressing reason to do that. If Israel persists in its violations, then certainly it will have to face accountability, Ashrawi said.