Showdown in New York
What has happened? Palestine has prepared a bid for statehood which it will take to the United Nations Security Council next week. The US is trying to stop the bid as it seeks what it believes would be a more solid and lasting solution to the Middle East crisis. It is expected to use its veto power to stop the bid.
Who opposes it? The United States and Israel are against the plan. They believe it goes outside of the 1993 Oslo Accords which call for a negotiated settlement. But publicly supporting Israel against most countries will look bad for US President Barack Obama. It will also put the idea of Palestinian independence back on the world agenda.
When will it happen? The bid is expected to be made late next week after the General Assembly speeches.
Where will it take place? In New York, at the United Nations.
Why does Palestine want this? They are frustrated as Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. These new homes restrict Palestinians' freedom of movement. The International Court of Justice says the settlements are illegal. This is considered to be one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East. Yet America is reluctant to confront Israel over the issue. By going to the Security Council, Palestinians will force the US to vote on the issue. If it were to go to the General Assembly, the US may just abstain.
If Palestine wins, how will things change? Non-member observer status is the lowest level of full UN membership. Although a vote in the General Assembly would not formally recognise a Palestinian state, it would give the Palestinians rights to observe and submit resolutions and join other UN bodies and conventions. It could also strengthen their ability to pursue legal cases in the International Criminal Court, something that alarms Israel and the US in particular.