PA President Abbas and Ban Ki-moon at the UN 300 (R).
(photo credit: Chip East / Reuters)
November 29, 2012 marked the day that should have been the 65th birthday of Palestine. But because of the Arab world’s rejection of the UN partition resolution in 1947, no one was blowing out the birthday candles last Thursday. Instead, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought—and gained—non-member observer status for Palestine. In the original vote, 33 UN states supported the partition of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states, while 13 states voted against and 10 abstained. Note that almost every country that did not support the creation of a Jewish state next to a Palestinian state today supports the creation of a Palestinian state next to an existing Jewish one.
For those of you who missed the significance of the latest UN vote, don’t worry, the Palestinians themselves aren’t sure what it’s all about. Remember that giant blue chair that was erected in Ramallah to symbolize recognition of Palestine in the UN ahead during last year’s bid? Efforts to fool the hapless Palestinians into thinking that the move will actually have any significance have been ongoing ever since. Posters bearing the declaration “Palestine State 194” adorn West Bank streets. But this is manifestly not what Palestine is going to receive. The UN will still have 193 states and Palestine will be an asterisk – just like the Vatican, the only other non-member observer. Nothing shabby about the Vatican of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that Abbas isn’t bringing home the 194th state.
Abbas wants to go down in history – especially following Hamas’ self-proclaimed “victory” over Israel in the recent conflict in Gaza – as being the leader who achieved UN status for Palestine. (Never mind that his term finished in 2009 and therefore the legitimacy of said leadership is arguable.) He also wants to be remembered like his PLO predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who in 1974, achieved recognition for the PLO as an observing entity in the UN under Resolution 3237. In Thursday’s speech, Abbas reminded the nations of the world that back then, Arafat had “assured the Members of the General Assembly of our affirmative pursuit for peace” and concluded with Arafat’s famous quote from that same assembly, “Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.”
Does anyone need reminding that that was the year Arafat rocked up to the UN with a pistol holster perched on his hip?
The problem is, while the latest resolution may turn out to have little – if any – practical implications for the future establishment of a Palestinian state, it has implications for the UN as well as for the countries that voted in its favor. By passing the resolution, the UN has in effect overruled – or at least, negated – previous resolutions, such as UN Security Council’s Resolution 242 which states that some of the territories captured in the 1967 war be retained by Israel for security purposes. Had Abbas made even the slightest hint of a promise regarding Israel’s security, perhaps this could be overlooked. But as it stands now, according to the UN - and in concurrence with Abbas’ words, Israel is occupying parts of Jerusalem, including its holiest site, the Western Wall.
Abbas also called upon the UN to seek a “just and agreed upon solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.” Abbas continues the tradition of using the refugee question as a tactical weapon in Palestinian lawfare. He tirelessly perpetuates the ludicrous fantasy that 5 million descendents of refugees will one day be able to return to Israel. Apart from the obvious fact that this would effectively bring about the end of the Jewish State, even the very word “refugee” in this context is an aberration of the term. No country or governing body – and certainly not the UN – has ever – or can ever – bequeath refugee status on people who are already citizens of the country they reside in.
Another implication for the “Yes” countries again harks back to territory. In his speech, Abbas said, “we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine - on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967” – and 138 states nodded their heads in collective assent. But don’t they realize that by doing so, they have - de facto – recognized an Israeli state outside of the ‘67 borders? Many of those countries – including non-Muslim countries as well as the 8 signatories on the Khartoum Resolution – continue to reject Israel’s right to exist. In light of Thursday’s resolution, it is now incumbent upon those countries to revisit their rejectionist policies and establish diplomatic relations with the country that they – oops! – now recognize.
It’s just a shame that instead of settling for 22% of non-observer status, Thursday could’ve marked the 65th birthday of a Palestine more than twice that size. True to Palestinian tradition, could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, but didn’t.