Israel asks UN to reject Palestinian attempt to raise flag

Israel has urged UN leaders to reject a Palestinian attempt to raise their flag at UN headquarters as early as this month’s gathering of world leaders there.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor accused the Palestinians yesterday in letters to the United Nations secretary-general and General Assembly president of “attempting to swiftly change longstanding UN tradition in order to score political points.”

The flags of all 193 UN member states fly outside UN headquarters in New York and other UN offices but not the flags of the two non-member observer states, Palestine and the Vatican.

The Palestinians are seeking General Assembly approval of a draft resolution that would allow non-member observer states to raise their flags.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told The Associated Press that he expects a revised draft to be circulated on Thursday and a vote on September 10, though a General Assembly spokeswoman said no date had been set.

He said he expects an “overwhelming majority” of states to support the resolution.

It states that “observer states maintaining permanent observer missions will raise their flags after member states,” Mansour said. And it gives Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 20 days to implement the flag-raising provision.

Mansour said he would like to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raise the flag after he addresses the General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders on September 30.

He said if the Holy See wants to raise its flag in time for Pope Francis’ visit to the UN on Sept 25, “by all means we’ll be there!”

Several nations have shown support for the Palestinians’ pursuit of statehood, including the Vatican. In May, the Vatican officially recognized the state of Palestine with a bilateral treaty.

Mansour said the Holy See had expressed support for the flag-raising idea in principle early last month. But last week, the Vatican’s mission to the UN circulated a note among member states saying it was not co-sponsoring the draft.

Then on Friday, the Vatican issued a statement noting that by tradition only member states have displayed their flags, but adding that it would accept whatever UN decision is taken on the issue.

Prosor’s letter called the flag-raising effort a “blatant attempt to hijack the UN,” adding, “As the gatekeeper of this institution, I call on you to reject this aggressive behavior.”

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, opposed the Palestinian move.