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In NY's Little Palestine, Few Have Hope That Statehood Bid Will Make a Difference

Monday, September 19, 2011

As the U.S. scrambled to avoid a showdown at the United Nations over the Palestinian bid for statehood, belief that the new initiative will not bear any fruit prevailed in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, home of New York’s Little Palestine.

At the U.N., in midtown Manhattan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held meetings with her Turkish and Russian counterparts to ask for cooperation in addressing the Palestinian issue, the most prominent item on this year’s UN General Assembly’s agenda.

The Obama administration has made clear it will veto the Palestinian request to become the 194th U.N. member state.

In interviews, residents of the Bay Ridge — a neighborhood dotted with halal butcher shops, hookah bars and pastry shops — said U.S.’s opposition doomed the statehood bid to failure.

“If the U.S. is against it, it’s not going to work,” said Ziad Khaled, 48, as he worked the counter of a pastry shop on 3rd Avenue.

For the request to succeed, the Palestinians would have to secure nine votes in the Security Council, but even if they succeeded the U.S. would exercise its right as one of the five permanent members to veto the resolution. Still, U.S. diplomats have been working to avert that situation, as it has the potential to damage the country’s standing in the Arab world at a critical moment.

Khaled said he also believed that the position of the U.S. would lead to withdrawal of support from countries that have historically been more sympathetic to Palestine.

“I don’t see it,” he said, talking about what might happen this week. “I hope there will be a Palestinian state, but I don’t see it.”

Just a few blocks away, Emona Mohmed, 46, who works in a clothing store, sounded more hopeful. She said that even though the odds of becoming a U.N. member state seemed slim, she was looking for a breakthrough from the U.N. that would put Palestine and Israel on a more equal footing.

“If they become a member of the U.N.,” she said, “it will give them a voice so the entire world can hear it.”

Looking beyond this week, many in the neighborhood said they predict a bleak future in terms of the continuation of negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Boris Sholomov, 28, owner of a barber shop on 5th avenue, who is Jewish and moved here seven years ago from Israel, described Palestine’s bid as “bad strategy,” coming out of desperation. But, he pointed out, he also disagrees with the Israeli policy.

“I don’t believe there will ever be peace in that land,” he concluded.

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