Palestine: From “Observer Entity” to “Observer State”

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Abolqasem Qasemzadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

The United Nations General Assembly has agreed through a voting, which finished with 138 votes in favor against nine nays and 41 abstentions, to upgrade the status of Palestine’s membership from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state.”

Apart from acceptance or rejection as well as optimism or pessimism toward this very important political and international development, it can be analyzed from various angles.

1. Since the head of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas first forwarded his request for the upgrade of Palestine’s membership at the United Nations, his bid was met with three different political reactions at international level. The first reaction was shown by Israel and its close ally, the government of the United States, which voiced their absolute opposition to the proposal as well as the General Assembly’s meeting to vote on it. Israel said the reason behind its opposition was premature nature of the proposal claiming that if approved, it would harm the process of bilateral and direct talks between Palestinians and Israel. The official representative of Israel to the UN noted that the proposal and its approval by the UN General Assembly would not help the Middle East peace process in any way and would, in practice, make the existing regional problems more complicated. Of special concern to Israel was the possibility for the Palestinian Authority to become a member of The Hague Tribunal after approval of the General Assembly resolution, which would enable the Palestinian government to prosecute Israel’s crimes through the international judicial body. On the other hand, the US President Barack Obama emphasized on the same reasons that Israel had given for its opposition, noting that the upgrade of Palestine’s status at the UN would be a setback to realization of overarching peace between Israel and Palestinians.

The second reaction was agreement to convening a meeting of the UN General Assembly to discuss the proposal which was shown by most member states of the world body. Three out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, including France, Russia, and China, indicated their agreement to the upgrade. Their movement led to further isolation of the US government. The British government had mentioned a condition for its positive vote to the upgrade. London had made its positive vote conditional on a public announcement by Mahmoud Abbas declaring that following approval of the resolution, Palestinians will lodge no lawsuit against Israel with The Hague Tribunal. Britain also wanted to make sure that after approval of the resolution, any form of military confrontation with Israel would be condemned and that Palestinians would give full recognition to Israel. The overwhelming spate of state approval for the resolution from official members of the UN practically isolated the United States, and Britain, making their position unacceptable to the rest of the international community. The third reaction was shown in the Middle East region by different Palestinian organizations or active political circles. Here, most of them hailed Mahmoud Abbas’ measure at the UN as a positive political move in international stage which would be of benefit to Palestinians’ struggles. The head of the political bureau of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, announced that recognition of Palestine as a state by the United Nations would help realization of the national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and would increase the power of all kinds of resistance against the occupation of Palestine. Mashal added that Hamas accepts establishment of a Palestinian state with Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital which would entail return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland, but it should not be made conditional on recognition of Israel or giving up the legitimate rights of Palestinians. Ismail Haniyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, also noted that his government would support any political achievement which would benefit Palestine and would not require recognition of the occupying regime of Israel. The Islamic Republic of Iran has also welcomed the upgrade of Palestine’s status at the UN to “non-member observer state” as a positive step forward. In Israel, while the leaders of the Israeli regime, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did their best to downplay the importance of the UN General Assembly’s measure, Israeli newspapers wrote that if the issue was really so insignificant, why Netanyahu’s government kept talking about it and expressed grave concern. The Israeli daily, Haaretz, also carried a report noting that any person with eyes on their head would clearly observe the diplomatic failure of Netanyahu’s government following membership of Palestine at the UN.

2. Apart from significance or insignificance of the UN General Assembly resolution which upgraded Palestine’s status to an observer state in the world body, the event was per se a major referendum at the UN. There are many reasons to believe that the approval has been a heavy political failure for the United States and Canada and has led to their isolation in their effort to resist against the will of other states at international level. The absolute majority of positive votes given to the resolution by 138 UN member states; minimal abstentions by indifferent countries as well as nine votes which were against the resolution and were engineered by the United States and Israel;  failure of the effort made by the governments of the United States and Canada to win negative votes of governments whose names clearly indicate their weight in international relations; opposition to the resolution by such island states like Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau in addition to the Czech Republic and Panama all of whom host major military bases of the United States, are actually run by the US government’s dollars, and are under its military domination, are among those reasons. The Canadian government practically spearheaded efforts made to reject the resolution at the General Assembly which proved that Ottawa sees the Middle East through Israel and its regional interests. For the Palestinians and Arabs at large, the Canadian government’s effort indicated its absolute adversity to the rights of nations in the Middle East. The Canadian government is openly and officially supporting the regime’s racism and the crimes of a state which is at the center of “state terrorism” throughout the Middle East. Unfortunately, the mass media in the Middle East and even Iran’s national medium do not give adequate information to their audience about such a racist measure by the Canadian government and make no effort to reveal its true colors. Canada has vast trade relations with many governments in the Middle East and has extensive interests in this region. However, whenever it has a chance, it deals a blow to Muslims and the oppressed nation of Palestine. The effort made by the Canadian government at the General Assembly to boycott the pro-Palestinian resolution was a total failure. Interestingly, the British government abstained from voting for the resolution at the eleventh hour instead of opposing Palestine’s membership at the UN. The Obama administration wants to take Washington’s failure at the General Assembly out of the media focus by downplaying Washington’s fiasco. In reality, however, his administration suffered a heavy defeat at the General Assembly session.

3. This resolution will certainly not put an end to occupationist policies of Israel. The current problem facing Palestinians is continued construction of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the small area of Palestinian territories which have been considered by the Palestinian Authority for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has announced that Israel will continue to build settler units despite the opposition of the United States and European governments. Out of total Palestinian lands which have been occupied by Israel since 1947, less than 10 percent has been considered for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Meanwhile, the text of the resolution adopted by the General Assembly clearly states that Palestine has been accepted to the UN as a non-member observer state. It has calls on the Security Council to take a positive stance on a previous request offered by the Palestinian officials back in September 2011, which urged the Security Council to accede to the full membership of Palestine at the UN.

The General Assembly’s resolution also underlined the necessity of finding a fair solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees while urging Tel Aviv to bring construction of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian lands, including in the East Al-Quds (Jerusalem), to complete stop. The resolution had called for a legal framework to be set for Palestinians, emphasizing that the Middle East peace should be established in an equitable way to put an end to occupationist policies which started in 1967. The resolution has also stressed on the continuation of negotiations and dialogue between the two sides in order to settle the existing disputes in a fair, permanent and overarching manner as a prelude to establishment of two independent states.

The status of Palestine at the UN has been upgraded from an observer entity to a non-member observer state through 138 positive votes of the UN member countries. A major question has currently preoccupied political circles around the world. Will adoption of this resolution clear the way for a political solution to the issue of Palestine and establishment of two states, or will Israel continue to use its military power to suppress Palestinians with the US support and keep the crisis boiling in the Middle East?

Key Words: Palestine, Observer Entity, Observer State, UN General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas, Hague Tribunal, Netanyahu, Israeli Settlements, Qasemzadeh

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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