Saturday, April 20, 2024

EDITORIAL: Palestine gets paper victory at United Nations


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Last Friday, Barbados celebrated its 46th anniversary of Independence from Britain. On Thursday, Palestine had just secured just over a two-thirds General Assembly vote at the United Nations (UN) from an observer to a non-member observer state.
Whatever one’s ideological or political persuasion, people in Third World countries like Barbados that had to fight for self-determination – an unalienable right enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – will not find it difficult to empathize with the Palestinian cause.
It is noteworthy that the Palestinian bid for state recognition at the UN came exactly 65 years since the General Assembly voted on a two-state solution in Palestine that its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday noted was “tragically unfulfilled”.
The Palestinian Authority was forced to turn to the UN General Assembly instead of the Security Council after the United States said it would veto the bid for full membership last fall until there was a peace deal with Israel.
The overwhelming vote last Thursday shows the extent of the diplomatic isolation of Israel and the United States – the two principal opponents of the move. The fear is that Palestine will now able to join UN specialized agencies, particularly the International Criminal Court.
Canada was the only ally to vote with Washington.European countries France and Italy voted for Palestine, while Germany and Britain abstained. So several governments calculated that Palestine should at least win its bid for statehood at the UN, albeit as a non-member observer.
Clearly, the new Palestinian status at the UN will not lead to any dramatic change in the nature of the Israeli occupation. On the contrary, immediately after the vote Israel announced the construction of 3 000 new homes for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
However, to reflect the growing change in the global community, increasing diplomatic pressure is being put on Israel to change this strategy. Britain, Sweden and France have summoned Israeli ambassadors to signal their disapproval.
While Israel’s desire to squash all Palestinian aspirations to statehood is understandable, the strong United States opposition to the UN vote is more difficult to fathom, given their war of independence.
The reason given by American spokesmen is that the change in Palestinian status at the UN would make negotiations with Israel more complicated. This implies that there was an ongoing peace process that was in danger of being derailed.
Nothing could be further from the truth. For years, even talks about talks have been in the doldrums. Ever since President Obama raised Palestinian hopes early in his first tenure, he has virtually capitulated in the face of Israeli obduracy.
Despite Palestine’s diplomatic paper victory at the UN, the reality for the Palestinians is that they may have a state but no ground on which to stand.


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