By Tom Perry
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept 7 (Reuters) - U.S. President
Barack Obama is an unlikely participant in a Palestinian
campaign to drum up support for a bid to win U.N. recognition of
their statehood -- a diplomatic move opposed by both his
administration and Israel.
But as part of an official media campaign begun this week,
Palestinians have pulled from the archive some words spoken by
Obama during the 2010 U.N. General Assembly, in which he alluded
to the prospect of a Palestinian state joining the world body.
"When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement
that can lead to a new member of the United Nations, an
independent, sovereign state of Palestine living in peace with
Israel," Obama says in his 2010 speech.
Although described by U.S. officials as no more than an
expression of hope, the Obama remarks are one factor cited by
Palestinians when explaining their push for U.N. membership at
this year's General Assembly, due to convene in a few weeks.
"If he said it, he must have meant it," Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas says during a 36-second radio spot.
The ad is a reflection of Palestinian frustration with the
Obama administration. The Palestinians feel Obama let them down,
notably by failing to convince Israel to halt Jewish settlement
expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem -- part of the
territories where they seek an independent state.
Though the U.S. president's remarks were hedged, Abbas has
described the statement as the "Obama promise".
Obama spoke just a few weeks after his administration had
brokered a resumption of peace talks, which then collapsed a few
weeks later over the settlement issue.
The U.S. president's words are being used alongside excerpts
of speeches by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as part
of the campaign. Verses penned by Mahmoud Darwish, the national
poet who died in 2008, also feature.
The United States, Israel's closest ally, opposes the
Palestinian U.N. initiative on the grounds that it is unhelpful
to its Middle East diplomacy, which is still focused on bringing
about a resumption of face-to-face peace talks.
U.S. opposition in the Security Council will thwart any
Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership, although the
Palestinians could still secure an upgrade in their status to a
"non-member state" by presenting a General Assembly resolution.
"We are reminding (Obama) of what he said in the United
Nations in 2010," said Ahmad Zaki ElAreedi, director of Voice of
Palestine radio, one of the Palestinian Authority-run
institutions broadcasting the campaign.
Western diplomats have pinned much of the blame for the
moribund peace process on Israel, with Washington and European
capitals roundly condemning a spurt of recent approvals for
settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
While the United States has said it will side with Israel in
the impending showdown in the United Nations, a big majority of
U.N. members are likely to back the Palestinians.
(Reporting by Tom Perry; editing by Crispian Balmer and Mark
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