U.N. Vote on Palestinian Status

The Common Good has been closely following events in the Middle East, with recent guests Col. Jack Jacobs, Professor Colin Kahl, [event details and video] and many others over the years.

Yesterday’s U.N. vote to grant the Palestinian Authority an upgrade from “non-member entity” to “non-member state,” was celebrated on the Arab street even as it was played down by U.S. and Israeli officials, but it will certainly be a factor in the future.

Here are five top related news and analysis items about the potential meaning of the vote.


NEW YORK TIMES, Ethan Bronner, Christine Hauser (11/29)—  More than 130 countries voted on Thursday to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state of the United Nations, a triumph for Palestinian diplomacy and a sharp rebuke to the United States and Israel.

But the vote, at least for now, did little to bring either the Palestinians or the Israelis closer to the goal they claim to seek: two states living side by side, or increased Palestinian unity. Israel and the militant group Hamas both responded critically to the day’s events, though for different reasons.

The new status will give the Palestinians more tools to challenge Israel in international legal forums for its occupation activities in the West Bank, including settlement-building, and it helped bolster the Palestinian Authority, weakened after eight days of battle between its rival Hamas and Israel. [more at nytimes.com]



COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATION, Analysis— ”The most intriguing result of Thursday’s vote, perhaps, will be the effect on the long-delayed reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas. The latter has been remarkably positive about Abbas’ bid, even holding a public rally today in Gaza to show support—a stark contrast to last year, when Hamas officials largely kept quiet and discouraged any public demonstrations,” writes Gregg Carlstrom for Al Jazeera.

The danger for the Israelis is that Abbas will feel impelled to pursue the legal route to regain political credibility. He is desperately trying to recover political face, after his marginalisation during the Gaza conflict at the expense of Hamas. Hamas themselves initially opposed the UN bid, but seem to have tempered their opposition today, in the face of widespread celebrations in the West Bank,” writes Gideon Rachman for the Financial Times.

Of course, if the Palestinians enter the legal battlefield, they, too, risk being accused and prosecuted in the venues where they’d try to target Israelis. There is no guarantee for either side that the ICC prosecutor would follow through on charges. The ICC has procedural obstacles that could head off any prosecution there,” writes Joseph Schuman for Reuters. [more at cfr.org]



TIME, Karl Vick (11/29)—…European nations rallied around Abbas, intent on shoring up a leader who is secular, moderate – and already at political risk for cooperating with Israel to suppress armed resistance even before Gaza seized the world’s attention.

Many of the “marquee” countries of Western Europe that Netanyahu had hoped to vote against Palestine statehood, such as France, instead lined up behind Abbas. Others, including Britain, abstained, after seeking assurances that Palestine will not to go the ICC, or that negotiations with Israel will resume. Abbas has already promised the latter. Thursday morning brought news that Israel had lost Germany, a stalwart ally in the wake of the Holocaust, to the abstention column. “If there is a poor turnout, a poor vote, the radicals gain,” India’s U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters. [more at time.com]



CBS NEWS, Pamela Falk, (11/30)— The United Nations General Assembly voted Thursday, by an impressive margin, to upgrade Palestine from its status as an “Observer Entity” to an “Observer State,” […] But what exactly did the Palestinians really gain at the world body? The resolution referred to the “right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine.”

Here’s what the U.N.’s own charter, and international law have to say on the matter:

The recognition of a new State or Government is an act that only other States and Governments may grant or withhold. It generally implies readiness to assume diplomatic relations. The United Nations is neither a State nor a Government, and therefore does not possess any authority to recognize either a State or a Government,” according to the United Nations. [more at cbsnews.com]



NEW YORKER, David Remnick (11/30)— Last night, a few hours after the United Nations General Assembly voted to give Palestine nonmember observer status in the international body—a move that the Times described as an “upgrade”—the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, flew coach from New York to Washington, D.C., in order to see a movie about himself. […]

Fayyad is a technocratic revolutionary. He is a small man, a little pudgy, and wears smart suits and wire-rimmed glasses. He is sixty and looks seventy. He was born in Deir al-Ghusun, in the West Bank, and educated in Beirut and, finally, at the University of Texas, where he received a doctorate in economics. He worked for the I.M.F. and the World Bank before being appointed finance minister by Yasser Arafat. As Prime Minister, he devised an insistent ideology of constant construction and development in the West Bank.  […]

The reality of a Palestinian state, he has said, “will impose itself on the world.” His legacy is evident, in concrete, in Ramallah and throughout the West Bank. [more at newyorker.com]