By William Pfaff

Palestinian Ambassador Maen Areikat has called on the Obama administration to stop coddling Israel and vote for United Nations recognition of Palestine, or at least abstain from voting in the U.N. Security Council.

While the expected U.S. veto will kill formal U.N. recognition, Palestine is still planning on taking its case to the U.N. General assembly which is likely to overwhelmingly approve "non-member state" status to Israel's neighbor and foe.

In an impassioned plea to the White House, Areikat told reporters that President Obama should stop making the case for the stronger Jewish state and come to the defense of the smaller Arab state. He went so far as to suggest that defending the bigger nation in the fight for statehood was un-American.

What's more, while he predicted that a U.S. veto of full nation status would result in peaceful demonstrations throughout Palestine, it would hurt U.S. relations with Arab and Muslim nations at a time when Washington is still trying to sustain support for its war on terrorism.

Areikat said that a veto would have consequences "with the Arabs and Muslim people."

The ambassador met with reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. He repeatedly made the case that Palestine's bid for recognition was legal and the next step in its long and trouble history. "We are not doing something against the law," he said.

Then he added: "I don't know what the big issue is."

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, indicated that the United States won't allow recognition to move out of the Security Council until the Palestinians renew negotiations with Israel over borders, security and human rights.

Areikat said that he wasn't surprised by that reaction, noting that when support for Israel is discussed in Washington, "everybody seems to agree."

But, he said, Israel is stubborn and the United States is not using its leverage to force Jerusalem back to the table. "We want to engage in negotiations," he said. "We are not at war with Israel."

Yet without U.S. pressure, said Areikat, Israel won't move away from its opposition to U.N. recognition of Palestine. "Israel has no reason to move forward because they are in a comfortable position," he said.


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