Desperation or Provocation

 

The issue of Palestinian statehood has again captured the agenda of the UN as highlighted by the recent resolution on the subject before the Security Council, which though was defeated for failing to obtain the necessary number of positive votes from the members. The Palestinian leadership should have been aware of this outcome in view of unrelenting American support for its closest ally Israel.

There has been a debate among foreign relations experts whether Palestinian Authority was becoming provocative by pushing for such a vote at the UN Security Council. The last time when the Palestinians took such a step to gain statehood recognition internationally was in 2011. Then the Palestinian Authority had presented a formal request at the UN for granting it the full membership of the world organization, in which it has observer status.

The Security Council vote on the resolution on Palestine, which took place on Tuesday December 30 2014 is reminiscent of September 2012 when the resolution concerning granting of UN full membership to Palestine Authority faced the same fate of failing to garner the nine required yes votes. Then as in last December (2014) the U.S. leadership lobbied hard in favor of Israel to block the Palestinians’ move for UN membership by persuading the Security Council members to oppose the same.

It is no surprise that the Palestinians enjoy greater sympathy among the members of the UN General Assembly and so could have gained membership had the U.S. and its allies not obstructed the membership resolution, which needs to be passed by the UN Security Council. The UN General Assembly can decide whether to approve any country’s membership application only on the recommendation of the Security Council.

Veto-wielding member like the U.S. in the UN Security Council has always been a guarantor of support for Israel. This is why Israel has been adamant in peace negotiations with the Palestine Authority ever since the American Secretary of State John Kerry led the initiative of secret talks between the Israelis and the Palestine, which bore no fruit despite nine months of shuttle diplomacy. Unfortunately the U.S.-initiated peace process in the Middle East, which president Obama wanted to see succeed before leaving his office next year, has almost collapsed with increasing desperation on the part of the Palestinians. The UN move by the Palestinians is an example of their utter frustration due to fruitless peace talks with Israel.

The latest vote count at the Security Council reveals that Americans have succeeded in foiling the attempts of the Palestinians for pushing for a time table for negotiations even without having to cast their veto to kill the resolution. But it does not hide U.S.’s designs and maneuvers to deny the Palestinians their right to claim statehood despite American support for a two-state solution principle endorsed by UN Quartet. This Quartet includes the U.S., UN, Russia and the EU.

The ramifications of the UN action on the situation in the Middle East are not difficult to imagine with likely growing rift between America and the Arabs. If the deliberations in the Security Council in the wake of the UN vote are any guide, a lot of anguish is expressed by the representative of Jordan, which represents the Arab countries in the council. As substantiated by the relevant UN documents, the Jordanian representative has said, “The UN Security Council has failed in its duties by not adopting the resolution.”

Interestingly, even France has supported the UN Security Council resolution, which if approved, would have required to complete Israel-Palestine negotiations within one year. The finalization of such negotiations would have laid the foundation for peaceful solution to the situation in the Middle East. Consequently, a congenial environment for establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital would have been created.

The time table requirement for finalizing peace talks has been one of the points which has received strong US objection. The U.S.’s ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has labeled the said draft resolution as unbalanced and unconstructive. Of the three remaining permanent members of the UN Security Council, Britain abstained in the voting but China and Russia lent their support to the resolution.

The UN action on Palestinian vote has again brought rupture between the U.S. and Russia at a time when the former needs the latter’s cooperation more urgently to deal with emerging new terrorist threats posed by Islamic State and Iraq and Syria. Resolving the Syrian crisis that has been getting worse requires Russia’s tacit support as evidenced by the vetoes Russia cast at UN Security Council meetings in the past.

Ominously, U.S.-Russia bilateral relations have turned more confrontational seen against the background of the crisis in Ukraine, where Russia feels that the West has unjustly encroached in its neighborhood. Needless to mention that the interference of the U.S. in the affairs of Ukraine to push for NATO’s expansion in the Russia’s doorstep has been a serious bone of contention between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. The issue of compliance with 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) has compounded the problem between the U.S. and Russia, which have signed the above significant arms control treaty. Russia has been accused of violating the INF treaty.

The most immediate after effect of defeat of Palestine resolution has been reflected in the decision of the Palestine Authority to accede to the Rome Statute to become the member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has been criticized by Israel and the U.S. governments. Both the U.S. and Israel have even vowed to punish for Palestinian move to obtain ICC’s membership as they fear that cases of war crimes against Israel could be registered with the world court by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Responding to the allegation that PA action of accession to the Rome Treaty is tantamount to provocation, the permanent observer PA to the UN Rijad Mansour has said, “This is a very significant step to seek justice through a legal action. We delivered a letter to the Office of Registrar at the Hague requesting retroactivity with regards to the crimes committed during the last war in Gaza and reserving our right for other retroactive crimes committed by Israel.”

Hence a debate has ensued whether this legal action on the part of the Palestinians is an act of desperation for seeing no hopes of peaceful resolution to their conflict with Israel for more than six decades or a provocative step to derail the stalled peace process in the Middle East.

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