How is the Palestinian UN vote more than symbolic?
November 30, 2012
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Following the General Assembly vote to upgrade Palestine from permanent observer to non-member observer state defined by pre-1967 borders, there are new political ramifications to consider. Though the international community as a whole has furthered the legitimisation of the two state-solution, it has come at the cost of Israel’s political autonomy. Amidst peace negotiations, Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s bid for statehood has evoked opposition from Israel:
- It has threatened to withhold crucial tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA and restrict movements of its officials from the West Bank.
- On 14 November, a position paper leaked from Israel’s foreign ministry proposed “toppling” Mr Abbas.
- Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Ben Dor said that if President Abbas continued with the bid, he would be in breach of the 1993 Oslo Accord, under which the PA was established.
While I do think it is a valid objective to override Israel’s sovereignty (not disregarding the fact it sprung from an IGO itself) for the sake of a transitioning Palestine, I can also understand why the U.S. government (see Secretary Clinton) has branded the vote counter-productive in the context of peace vs. justice. Because the Oslo Accords were established in the spirit of a bilateral agreement, the role of external actors in validating Palestine’s statehood has pre-empted negotiations and has thus antagonised Israel. In terms of practical significance, Israel is now less willing to cooperate in political stability (newly authorised construction of settlements in occupied territory) and has gone as far as saying the vote will “hurt peace” since “This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that there will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel’s citizens… By going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will act accordingly.”
Another matter of interest is how Palestine’s UN-appointed statehood will be interpreted under Article 12 of the Rome Statute which looks to the Secretary General and General Assembly to clarify statehood parameters in contested cases. The ICC prosecutor previously argued that court jurisdiction on PA was contingent upon non-member observer status but Palestine may now re-attempt ICC membership. Consequently, Palestine could pursue legal action for forced displacement of populations; no matter how long this process could take to come into realisation, the issue remains that Israel views the possibility as a credible threat presently, when peace has not been reassured. It seems then that Palestinian sovereignty is a justice imperative but the sequencing is less than ideal for peace.