BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman lauded Friday as a “victory for democracy” the recent recognition by the U.N. of a Palestinian state and called on Israel to change its policy toward the Middle East peace process.
“Electing Palestine as a non-member state with observer status at the United Nations with 138 votes is a victory for democracy despite Israel’s pressure to prevent it,” Sleiman said, according to his press office.
Following years of negotiations by President Mahmoud Abbas, more than two-thirds of the U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state at the world body.
Sleiman also said that the Jewish state should modify its policies in light of the recent U.N. step.
“Israel should think wisely about such a step, convince itself of the democratic path and be involved in the [Middle East] peace process on the basis of the Madrid conference and Beirut-Arab initiative if it is truly seeking peace as well as abandon the policy of aggression, settlements and Judaization,” he said.
Israel and the U.S. immediately criticized the vote, with U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice condemning it as “an obstacle to peace,” arguing it would not lead to a return to direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri congratulated the Palestinian people and leadership on wining the vote and expressed hope that that the event would constitute “a political, ethical and human message to the international community.”
"What took place [Thursday] at the United Nations is a historic achievement and a turning point in the course of the Palestinian struggle in which great sacrifices have been made since the 1930’s,” Hariri said, according to his press office.
“It is also a major step on the road to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Hariri added.
The Future Movement leader also expressed hope that the success at the U.N. should provide incentive for all the factions to work together and overcome differences in order to achieve “the ultimate goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state.”
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, during a news conference at his Maarab residence, also commended the decision, describing it as another step toward the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.
“This step is the one before the last, which is the establishment of a free, independent and sovereign Palestinian state,” Geagea said.