UN Vote for Palestine resolution snubs Israel and the US

UN Vote for Palestine resolution snubs Israel and the US

Palestine resolution for admission into the UN as an “observer non-member state” was adopted on 29th December by a huge majority (138 in favour-9 negative votes with 41 abstentions including Australia. All European countries except the Czech Republic voted for or abstained at the UN.

Chairman of Palestine Authority Mahmoud Abbas addressed the General Assembly ahead of the vote. Abbas referenced the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, saying that Palestine had come to the UN at time when they were “still tending to their wounds and still burying their]beloved martyrs of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression”.

“What permits the Israeli government to blatantly continue with its aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes stems from its conviction that it is above the law and that it has immunity from accountability and consequences ,, The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation.”

He said that the Palestinians were not seeking to “delegitimise” Israel, but to affirm the legitimacy of Palestine as a state. This recognition of an upgraded UN status was the beginning of “a final serious attempt to achieve peace.The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member, described the bid as a “last-ditch effort”.”We believe the two-state solution is in jeopardy because of Israeli]actions. We want to ensure that the world is still committed to the establishment of a sovereign viable democratic free Palestinian state to interact as an equal,” she said

The interesting fact is that Israel’s arrogance and failure to negotiate with Palestinians for the last 20 years since the Oslo Accords has put off the European countries, some of which at one time were ardent supporters of Israel.

It is worthwhile to note that despite strong objection from the US and Israel, European countries changed their positions this year on Palestine issue, compared with the vote on Palestine in October 2011 at the UNESCO membership.

Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal and Georgia switched from “abstain” to “yes, Germany, Netherlands, and Lithuania switched from “no” to “abstain.” Sweden switched from “no” to “yes”.

The UN has three kinds of category of entities which can participate in the debate and join the UN agencies: (a) member-state, (b) observer non-member states and (c) Observer with no rights to vote.

The General Assembly has upgraded Palestinian status from (c) to (b) category above. The new status has many ramifications and some of them deserve mention as follows:

First, it is an indirect recognition of the Palestinians’ claims on statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. It strengthens its hand to negotiate with Israel for a two-state solution.

Second, it allows Palestine Authority to participate in the debate of the General Assembly. The Vatican is the other observer non-member state at the UN like the Palestine Authority.

Third, It allows them to join a number of UN agencies, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC). The last one is important because Palestinians can go to the ICC for any atrocities Israel inflicts on them constituting crimes against humanity. Even the illegal Jewish settlements uprooting the Palestinians could constitute crimes against humanity. If it is found that Yasser Arafat was poisoned by Israeli agencies for his death, Palestinians could go to the ICC against Israel.

Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu tried to bluff the Western countries that giving such status would obstruct the peace process and the US fell for it but the European countries were not convinced

On the other hand, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olemart reportedly said that he did not see any reason why Israel should oppose it. There was no connection between upgrading the status of the Palestinians and the peace process through negotiations.

In April 2003, the US together with the EU, UN and Russia ( known as the Quartet ) released its roadmap that outlined a three-stage program leading to an independent Palestinian State by 2005. By the end of 2012, no Palestine State has been constituted because of Israel’s defiant policy of continuing illegal settlements in Palestinian lands with impunity.

Desperate and frustrated , Palestinian officials have since pursued a new diplomatic strategy: asking individual countries to recognise an independent Palestinian state with borders following the ceasefire lines which separated Israel and the West Bank before June 1967. According to the PLO, more than 130 countries including Bangladesh already grant the Palestinians the rank of a sovereign state.

The Palestinians argue that admission even as a non-member observer state at the UN would strengthen their hands in peace talks with Israel on core issues that divide them: The Palestinians present the step as necessary to protect their right to self-determination and a two-state solution.

What Palestinians used to get 48% of its lands in 1947 after the UN divided the Palestinian lands in two states-Israel and Arab state, now they will get only 23% of its lands because after 1967 Israel has built illegal Jewish settlements on the occupied territory including in East Jerusalem. The settlements have fragmented the Palestinian territory.

It is suggested the Quartet must put pressure on Israel to halt illegal settlements in occupied West Bank including in East Jerusalem and create an environment in which both States—Israel and Palestine-can live peacefully with secure and viable borders.

The successful vote at the UN may compel Israel to sit with Palestinian representatives for a two-state solution because they know now how quickly Israel is losing support from the international community for its arrogance.

Another is the changing dynamics of the region which goes against Israel. Egypt has a Muslim Brotherhood’s President which supports Hamas in Gaza, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia supported Hamas during the recent fight with Israel. Iran has become a major regional player and Iraq is under Iranian influence.

Given the above fact, the sooner Israel realises that the regional environment is increasingly going against it, the better is for Israel to sit with Palestinians for a two-state solution with secure borders.

By Barrister Harun ur Rashid
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

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