The world's recognition of Palestine is a symbolic, moral and real victory for Palestinians in their struggle to end the 45 year belligerent occupation and secure an independent state. Those who oppose such aspirations are out of step with the rest of the world, and its time they realised that.
The vociferous responses from Israel, the United States and Canada to the Palestinian victory at the UN make you wonder why these powerful states are so scared of a small, disenfranchised, occupied people corralled into a series of bantustans under an oppressive, apartheid military rule.
The UN vote made it clear that these three, and the six other states which voted with them, are way out of step with world opinion, and they need to address that rather than threaten Palestinians.
There’s been much talk about the vote being symbolic, because little will change in the daily grind that is life under occupation.
The checkpoints won’t disappear over night; the illegal settlements on Palestinian land won’t suddenly vacate; the daily arrests, arbitrary detentions, collective punishments and torture won’t stop immediately; the shooting at children who throw stones at 21st century armory will not be silenced today, tomorrow or any time soon; and the construction of the separation barrier will grind on.
However the UN’s overwhelming support of the right to self determination and a sovereign state of Palestine will give the PLO the much needed leverage in a diplomatic battle that has been going nowhere but backwards for the last few years.
As Mahmoud Abbas told the UNGA, the two-state solution is now in the emergency room.
The Palestinians are desperate to make sure it survives, and vowed that this measured diplomacy is in no way an obstruction to peace negotiations. In fact Abbas cites it as a measure to jump start those moribund talks.
And why shouldn’t it be? What on earth is the reason that an upgrade in status for Palestinians automatically means the peace negotiations are threatened. Especially when they don’t exist anyway.
How Kafkaesque can it be for Palestinians who are told by the competing protagonist and its powerful enforcer acting as mediator, that they threaten the non-existent talks by securing the rights that the others in the non-existent talks have, and that the non-existent talks remain the only acceptable way to solve the problem. Get off the grass.
Palestine’s appeal to the world is the only significant action taken with an eye on peace negotiations since 2008. In that time as Palestine’s Foreign Minister has said, the aggression, settlements, assassinations, attacks, confiscations, walls and other violations of international law continue.
The U.S. and Israel call Palestine’s move dangerous and unilateral.
What could be more unilateral than the rampant theft of Palestinian territory for Jewish only housing and Jewish only roads?
When you are sitting down and discussing the division of a slab of cheese, and the big guy keeps gorging on that cheese, it is not long before there is nothing to haggle over.
That’s the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
There are now 500,000 Jews in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the building continues apace. Where is the U.S. and Canada on that one? After all it is a war crime to move citizens of an occupying power to the territory of an occupied people. How can Susan Rice and John Baird just blow that one off as if it is irrelevant. Imagine if it happened in Ottawa or Washington.
Israel says there can be no pre-conditions to peace talks, yet Israel has set pre-conditions - that Palestinians recognise Israel as a democratic Jewish state (which is oxymoronic); Jerusalem will be Israel’s undivided capital; a future Palestine must be a de-militarized state; and, Palestine can’t raise questions about the rampant settlement construction while in talks.
Israel gobbles the cheese and the Palestinians ought to be grateful for any crumbs that might be left when Israel and the U.S. - doing a mighty fine job as pimp - decide its time to stop the music.
This is not to say that the Palestinian Authority is the perfect little player. It is not. It has corruption issues and Abbas is losing legitimacy. This is not helped by Abbas’ inability to produce anything tangible from the twenty years of peace talks, or the rising influence of Hamas - the democratically elected ‘terrorist’ group that Israel negotiates with when it suits.
If the U.S., Israel and Canada decide to punish the most moderate of Palestinian leaders for trying to end the occupation and effect the two state solution, they truly have their heads in the sand. Palestinians have been clear that despite 45 years of belligerent Israeli occupation, they are not leaving their land.
If the US and Canada withdraw funding from the PA, it will be an own goal because that money is used to finance the PA’s security apparatus which protects Israel.
Israel has been very deft in managing to outsource the costs of its occupation, made possible by the Oslo Accords which created the PA and then authorised its policing of large tracts of the OPT for Israel’s protection from ‘terrorist’ threats. Israel doesn’t pay. International donors pay.
If the PA implodes - or is deliberately brought down as Israel has threatened to do, then the massive restraint that has been shown in the OPT since the second intifada will be stretched past its limit.
What would there be to stop non-violent protest morph quickly into violence?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine the response of the Israeli military if crowds of Palestinians - young and old - march up to the myriad of checkpoints and other barriers and demand freedom of movement in their own country...or their land back?
If only Israel and the United States could have embraced the move by Abbas, and said to the world that they are willing to get straight back to negotiations in line with the world view - state to state.
But here’s the reality.
Israel has elections in a couple of months and Netanyahu, fresh from hitching his future to the wrong US candidate, has hitched it toa coalition with the most right wing parties in the Knesset. There is no willingness there to do business with the Palestinians, because the ultra right hold to a colonial, Zionist ambition to have for themselves all of historic Palestine.
The other reason these countries are displaying alarming bully tendencies is that the UN’s nod to Palestine as a state gives it access to many international bodies, including the International Criminal Court which the PLO has long recognised.
Palestine may decide not to go to the ICC over the illegal settlements and various grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, but the possibility that it can is called leverage, and it is about time Palestine had some of that.
Armed with a long over-due diplomatic and moral victory, and an assurance that the world is with them, Palestinians want to settle their dispute with Israel, and don’t forget they are willing to settle for just 22% of their historic homeland.
The world has told Israel it has no excuse to prevaricate any longer. For proof that Israel’s isolation is growing you need look no further than its failure to secure the block of 40 to 50 votes of what it calls “quality democratic states” against the PLO at the UN. New Zealand’s vote in favour of Palestine puts it on the right side of history. It should now be pro-active in encouraging the resolution of this mess before it is too late.