Incomprehensible opposition to Palestinian move in UNGA to upgrade status to observer state [non-member]

Opposition by Israel [backed strongly by the US, at least until now, see below, and by some of its allies] to the current proposed Palestinian move to ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade its states from observer “entity” or “organization” to observer [but still non-member] state [STATE] is, frankly, incomprehensible.

True, Palestinian President [PLO Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas was very strongly advised to do this [which we’ll refer to hereafter as the “UN move”] last year — before making the full “UN bid” to seek, through the UN Security Council, full membership for the State of Palestine in the international organization [the UN].

Israel bitterly opposed the “UN bid”, saying it was a “unilateral move” that should instead be resolved through “negotiations” [though Israel itself makes plenty of unilateral moves].

Mahmoud Abbas has argued that the “UN bid”, and now the “UN move”, are in fact a way to save negotiations that have stalled since the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead attack supposedly on Hamas in Gaza that started on 27 December 2008 and ended with two separate truce declarations just hours before the inauguration ceremony for U.S. President Barack Obama.

Two or three brief unsuccessful subsequent attempts at resumptions — first in March 2010, then again in September 2010, and then meetings held in Amman under Jordanian auspices in early 2012 — stalled over the issue of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. [There were often announcements of building tenders at about the time the talks were supposed to resume].

A formula advanced by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when the issue of settlements arose during the George W. Bush Administration’s Annapolis Process of negotiations, was that if the borders could be defined, it would then become clear where the settlements were… [The Annapolis process was supposed to begin in November 2007 and were supposed to end with the realization of a Palestinian state about a year later.]

This reasoning appears to be part of the argument behind Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to seek state status [even if non-member] through the UN General Assembly in the month of November. Once Palestine is given state status at the UN, the general outline of the borders will be set, and the status of territory in the West Bank [and the Gaza Strip] will become that of a state under occupation.

Hanan Ashrawi, now a member of the PLO Executive Committee has recently stated, several times, that it’s completely unacceptable that Palestinians should be forced to negotiate their way out of occupation. Ashrawi came to international attention when she emerged as the spokesperson for the Palestinian component of the Jordanian teama at the Madrid Peace Conference that began in October 1991 [the PLO was not allowed to participate alone], and who ran in 2006 Palestinian Authority [PA] elections on a small ticket that included current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad…

Ashrawi is standing on firm grounding in international law.

Israel is, and has been, doing what it can to prevent and to block Palestinian self-determination.

University of Geneva Professor of International Law, Marcelo G. Cohen, has argued that prevention of another people’s self determination has been regarded, in international law and at the UN itself, as a great violation of international law.

That principle of international law is now slipping, at best, with the intense pressure being brought by Israel and its greatest supporter, the United States, which has a veto power it said it would use in the UN Security Council to block the “UN bid”. It earlier threatened, and Congress continues to threaten, all kinds of sanctions if the Palestinian leadership continues — but the U.S. State Department recently pointed out that 2011 Congressional legislation providing. for punitive measures against the Palestinians, if they go forward in the UN, can in fact be waived by the U.S. Secretary of State, in the interest of U.S. “national security”.

Akiva Eldar reported yesterday in Haaretz that “the report of a UN Security Council subcommittee on the PA’s bid for recognition as a state. The report said the PA doesn’t fulfil the conditions for statehood because it doesn’t control the Gaza Strip”… Akiva Eldar’s report in Haaretz is posted here.

In fact, the report [UN Security Council Document S/2011/705, dated 11 November 2011] summarized the differing views of the Council members [all of whom were represented on the Membership Committee], and on this matter it said [in paragraphs 11 + 12] only that the following differing [unascribed] views were presented:
“Questions were raised, however, regarding Palestine‚Äôs control over its territory, in view of the fact that Hamas was the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip. It was affirmed that the Israeli occupation was a factor preventing the Palestinian government from exercising full control over its territory. However, the view was expressed that occupation by a foreign Power did not imply that the sovereignty of an occupied territory was to be transferred to the occupying Power. With regard to the requirement of a government, the view was expressed that Palestine fulfilled this criterion. However, it was stated that Hamas was in control of 40 per cent of the population of Palestine; therefore the Palestinian Authority could not be considered to have effective government control over the claimed territory. It was stressed that the Palestine Liberation Organization, and not Hamas, was the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

This confirms and supplements something I was told by an American former official last spring/summer in Jerusalem: that the “UN bid” failed, in an informal vote inside the UNSC’s membership committee [composed of representatives of all 15 members of the UN Security Council] to gather the 9-vote majority necessary to be recommended to the UNGA for a vote. This information has not been publicly reported before.

But, the report published officially by Security Council Committee on the Admission of New Members states only that “the Chair stated that the Committee was unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council”. There is no mention of any straw poll or informal voting, and no numbers are given.

The report does generally describe three different positions among the Committee members, as follows:
“The view was expressed that the Committee should recommend to the Council that Palestine be admitted to membership in the United Nations. A different view was expressed that the membership application could not be supported at this time and an abstention was envisaged in the event of a vote. Yet another view expressed was that there were serious questions about the application, that the applicant did not meet the requirements for membership and that a favourable recommendation to the General Assembly would not be supported”.

In any case, it could be argued that it is in Israel’s best interests to support the full Palestinian “UN bid” in the UNSC, even more than the current rear-guard “UN move” in the UNGA, where the Palestinians should be able to get a majority vote of support…barring surprises resulting from huge political [and economic] pressure.

Current indications are that the American intention will be to block the move politically, but not necessarily to punish the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority with economic sanctions.

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