International tensions have certainly risen since the Palestinian Authority began seeking membership within various U.N. agencies and announced its quest to seek a full U.N. statehood bid.
At the end of October, the PA gained entry into UNESCO, which shocked the United States and Israel, among other countries opposed to U.N. membership without a peace agreement. Following this PA victory, the U.S. announced funding cuts and the Palestinian government subsequently said that it would seek entry into additional agencies.
Now, here's where the situation gets murky, becoming a he-said, she-said situation of sorts.
According to a new report by Israel's Haaretz.com, the PA may now be backing down from its lofty U.N. goals. A European diplomat has apparently said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his government will cease all attempts to gain U.N. recognition in various agencies until the end of January. In exchange, the U.S. and Israel would need to, once again, begin transferring funds to the PA. Haaretz reports:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special envoy Isaac Molho met secretly in London on Tuesday with U.S. administration representatives David Hale and Dennis Ross to discuss the suggestion.
According to a European diplomat whom the PA had updated about the proposal, the PA plans to complete the process of trying to get full UN membership for Palestine recognized by the Security Council. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to ask for a vote by the end of December, although the move is doomed to defeat. Even if the Palestinians muster enough votes, the United States will veto it.
So, while the prospect of achieving full membership isn't a reality, regardless of whether Abbas and his compatriots continue to push the measure, the PA may be willing to suspend its membership bids into small U.N. agencies (the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, among others).
On Thursday, the Jerusalem Post reported that the PA is denying it has been seeking out a deal that would require an abandonment of its statehood bid:
Palestinian officials denied Thursday reports claiming that they were willing to freeze their statehood bid at the United Nations if Israel handed over tax collection funds it had withheld over the Palestinian Authority's acceptance into the UN's educational panel. [...]
...speaking to Palestinian news agency Ma'an on Thursday, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat called the report "nonsense," saying that the Palestinians were determined to apply for membership."
These reports come after Haaretz wrote that sources in Israel confirm meetings between Molho and U.S. officials (other sources claim he also met with a "senior Arab figure" as well). By claiming that they will not abandon their statehood bid, PA officials may still be speaking with some accuracy.
After all, the Haaretz report said that they would be willing to suspend membership to other agencies, which is different from seeking the larger bid with the Security Council.
At this point, there is no definitive answer regarding whether the U.S. and Israel view this proposal favorably or whether the alleged discussions have truly occurred. Still, the notion that the PA is potentially looking to strike deals is certainly noteworthy.