This year, the Palestinians are seeking "nonmember state" status in the U.N. General Assembly, where passage is assured. The 193-member assembly is dominated by developing nations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Officials say they are looking for what they call a "quality" majority that includes European countries as well, though Germany and Britain, for instance, have been cool to the Palestinian plan.
While upgraded status would not change the situation on the ground, the Palestinians say the move is still significant. They will ask for international recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War.
They believe the U.N. vote would then require Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines or face international legal action. Israel rejects a full return to those lines, and says the borders between Israel and a future Palestine must be reached through direct negotiations.
The Palestinians also hope to use upgraded status to join additional U.N. bodies, such as the International Criminal Court, where they could attempt to prosecute Israel on war crimes violations. The Palestinians last year received membership into UNESCO, the U.N. cultural agency. Over Israeli objections, they subsequently won recognition of the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem as an endangered heritage site.
A Palestinian official said Abbas is expected to formally put his request to the General Assembly on Nov. 15 or Nov. 29. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal decision has been made.
Both dates are symbolic. The 15th is the anniversary of the 1988 Palestinian declaration of independence. The 29th is the anniversary of the 1947 U.N. decision to partition of what was then British-ruled Palestine into Israeli and Arab territories. Jewish leaders agreed, but Arabs rejected the plan, war erupted, and the Palestinians remain without a state. The U.N. now observes Nov. 29 as its annual day of solidarity with the Palestinians.
The Palestinians last year decided to turn to the U.N. after years of deadlock in peace efforts with Israel. Negotiations have been frozen since late 2008, in large part over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians say they will not resume talks without a settlement freeze.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a partial settlement freeze in 2009, but he refused to extend the slowdown when it expired, and a short-lived round of peace talks collapsed weeks after they were launched.
Abbas has said he will be ready to resume talks after the U.N. vote, perhaps even without a settlement freeze.
While Netanyahu has in the past said he is ready to talk without preconditions, he has not said how he would react to a U.N. vote.