Will the UN General Assembly recognise Palestinian statehood?
September will see a show down at the UN over the question of Palestinian statehood. This could have serious international ramifications, argues Simon Hardy
THERE IS a looming political crisis for the US and Israel – and perhaps also the Palestinian leadership – as the UN General Assembly is due to discuss a proposal in late September to recognise Palestine as an independent nation.
Palestine needs 135 votes to get the necessary two-thirds majority at the General Assembly. Currently it has 112, but more are likely to sign up in the next few weeks. However, both the US and Israel have made it clear that any vote to recognise Palestine will not be endorsed by the UN Security Council, where the US can use its veto.
The president of the UN, Joseph Deiss, emphatically denied that the Assembly could legally recognise and therefore create a state without the Security Council.
The reason for Israeli opposition is clear. “Frankly, the 1967 lines are not defensible,” said Doer Gold, an ex-Israeli ambassador to the UN. “Israel today is 45 miles wide. If you put us back to the ’67 lines, we are eight miles wide.” Pressures of demographic and territorial space are recurrent themes in Israeli politics and losing so much to a Palestinian state would be a disaster for Israeli politicians.
There is a near hysterical campaign orchestrated by the Israeli right and the mass media against the vote. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared that Mahmoud Abbas is planning “violence and bloodletting of the sort not yet seen before” on the day of the vote, as a scare tactic designed to terrify Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched top diplomats to deliver personally signed letters to over 40 heads of state explaining why they should vote against the proposal.
The US – the Zionist state’s chief paymaster, sending over $3 billion per annum – has threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority should it pursue the vote in the UN.
Currently the PA receives $550 million every year from the US. President Obama and the US Congress are hoping that the PA will be so afraid of bankrupting itself that it will pull back from raising the independence issue at the UN.
Obama was clear as to the reason behind this strategy: “Hamas still hasn’t recognised Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence, and recognise that negotiations are the right path for solving this problem.” He repeats the US political line that Hamas is an organisation that is intransigent on non-recognition of Israel.
But Hamas does not live up to its hard-line reputation. In 2009 Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad said: “We accept a state in the ’67 borders…We are not talking about the destruction of Israel.” Hamas has repeatedly said it is willing to talk to the US, or even Israel, and make compromises including “long-term” ceasefires – which effectively means abandoning the armed struggle.
The US also refuses to negotiate because it claims it is not willing to talk to terrorists. But this ‘principle’ is undermined by recent revelations that the occupation forces – led by the US – in Afghanistan have been seeking peace talks with the Taliban. The Taliban are also proscribed ‘terrorists’ in the eyes of the US.
A new Intifada?
Why are Israel and the US so concerned about this vote? The ex-US special envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell described the forthcoming vote as a “train wreck”, and it is easy to see why.
Simply put, the move by the Palestinians will expose all the hypocrisy of the West concerning the question of ‘two states’. The promise of statehood is constantly dangled in front of the Palestinians like a carrot as a lure to more rounds of peace talks, which deliver nothing and simply give Israel more time to expand its settlements in the West Bank. All the talk of a viable Palestinian state is just white noise to cover the thunder of the bulldozers as more and more Palestinians are driven from their homes and their land is stolen.
The vote will cause a serious breach between the West and developing nations, many of which support Palestine (at least on paper) and are angered by the arm-twisting to get them to vote against or abstain.
So far the Palestinians proposal has succeeded in exposing the US and Israel as the real barriers to negotiation. If it passes and Israel still refuses negotiations or attacks the Palestinian state, this political isolation will increase.
But the Palestinian leadership itself faces a potential crisis. If the vote fails, or is passed and Israel responds with either a new military provocation or a blockade of PA areas in the West Bank and Gaza, there is the potential for a third Intifada to erupt.
Already Palestinian politics have been shaken by the Arab revolutions, and new organisations such as Gaza Youth Break Out could play a similar role to the 6 April Youth Movement in Egypt, a group that led the initial pro-democracy demonstrations in January 2011.
A third Intifada will probably not be endorsed by either of the two official Palestinian leaderships. Fatah has long pursued a strategy of cooperation with Zionism. Even now their security forces spend far more time policing Palestinian resistance organisations than confronting the Israeli occupation. In Gaza, Hamas acted swiftly to disperse pro-democracy demonstrations that developed as part of the ‘Arab Spring’. A mass movement of resistance to Israeli occupation would not doubt see both Hamas and Fatah move to try and co-opt and contain it, while they pass themselves off as the natural leaders of it. But such a move is fraught with dangers and threats of new political organisations emerging to lead the Palestinian national resistance struggle.
What is the solution?
Clearly if the resolution passes it would strengthen the Palestinians position and give them more leverage on the international arena to pursue their demands for justice against the aggressive Israeli colonialist occupation force. But on its own it is unlikely to fundamentally change the power relations at work. More importantly, the UN cannot deliver Palestinian freedom – it not only created Israel in 1947, but it has failed to prevent countless atrocities and slaughter of Palestinians since then, despite countless resolutions.
What is needed is a mass pro-Palestine movement on the streets right across the Middle East, which would weaken the Zionists position and strengthen the Arab revolution as a whole. Internationally, we must win the labour movement worldwide to support the Palestinian struggle and boycott and isolate the Zionist state.
Some Palestinians are opposed to the proposal because they see it as strengthening the corrupt Palestinian Authority and a betrayal of the refugees by accepting the 1967 borders. Whilst these concerns are important, what is of prime importance is that any short term strengthening of the Palestinians’ position is not counterposed to the long term goals of a one state solution for Arabs and Jews. Recognition of Palestine, even along the 1967 bortders, would be a step forward, part of a wider struggle to liberate all Palestinians.