By Ameen Izzadeen
With the Palestinian unity deal tottering, with the Gaza aid flotilla campaign becoming a non-event and with Israel launching a diplomatic offensive to win friends, the Palestinian statehood prospects appear to be many dreams away.
Only months ago, the prospects looked bright with country after country in Latin America and elsewhere extending de jure recognition to the State of Palestine. Adding to the Palestinian euphoria was the April unity deal which the Fatah and Hamas signed aimed at strengthening their bargaining power vis-à-vis Israel.
The Palestinian Authority’s plan to take its case before the United Nations General Assembly in September seemed certain to succeed despite opposition from Israel and its diehard protector, the United States.
But now things seem to be going in the reverse for the Palestinians. The unity deal signed in April has still not produced the unity government because of a row over who should lead it. The Fatah led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insists that Salam Fayyad who heads the administration in the West Bank should lead the government by technocrats, but Hamas, which runs a separate administration in the Gaza Strip, wants another candidate. The impasse threatens to scuttle Abbas’s UN plans. Hamas, however, is dismissive of Abbas’s move because it believes that the US would not let it succeed.
Abbas wants to go before the UN as the leader of a united Palestine. He says Hamas has to understand the tough task ahead at the UN and stop bickering about who should lead the government.
Although some reports over the weekend said Hamas might compromise, the stalemate continues to the disadvantage of the Palestinian people while the combined diplomatic might of the US and Israel works hard to kill the Palestinian move at the UN in September.
The Barack Obama administration has well and truly proved that it is no different from the previous administrations in giving false promises to the Palestinian people. It was only in September last year that President Obama addressing the United Nations said: “When we come back here next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations — an independent, sovereign state of Palestine, living in peace with Israel.”
But this very same Obama is now determined to use his country’s veto power in the United Nations Security Council, an undemocratic institution serving the interests of five self-seeking global powers, to kill the Palestinian aspirations for a state. This may happen on July 26 when the Security Council will meet to discuss the possibility of Palestine becoming a UN member state. The United States is also using its diplomatic channels to dissuade the Palestinians from taking the UN route.
Next Monday, the Middle East quartet comprising the US, Russia, the UN and the European Union will meet in Washington to resurrect the Middle East talks which, the Palestinians say, have only helped Israel to grab more of their land and build more illegal settlements.
The Palestinians withdrew from the talks following Israel’s refusal to stop settlement building activities in the occupied territory. If the quartet or the US browbeats Abbas to return to talks using their aid as a stick, it may not only defer the Palestinians’ bid to seek UN recognition in September but also be construed as tacit approval for illegal settlement building activities.
However, Abbas appears to be determined to go to the UN General Assembly where he believe more than 150 countries will support his move even though the Palestinian Authority depends heavily on aid from the EU and the US to run its public services.
Israel meanwhile has intensified its diplomatic campaign to win back the support of the countries which have endorsed the Palestinian state. Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a tour of Eastern Europe and feels confident his mission is bearing fruit.
Israel also scored another victory this week when Greece, which is on the brink of bankruptcy, bowed to the Jewish lobby’s global financial power and prvented international activists who have gathered at a port near Athens from sailing to Gaza with aid.
Canada has already declared that it would not take any action that threatens Israel’s security while Britain this week arrested a highly-respected Palestinian preacher on charges of anti-Semitism, a euphemism for criticism of Israel.
These diplomatic moves and countermoves do not necessarily mean a Palestinian state will be a reality come September when the Arab League presents a General Assembly resolution seeking UN membership for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This is because the final authority to grant membership is not with the General Assembly but with the Security Council. Article 4 of the UN Charter states that the admission of any state to membership in the UN will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
According to the UN legal division, the normal procedure is as follows:
The State seeking recognition submits an application to the Secretary-General and a formal declaration stating that it accepts the obligations under the UN Charter. The application is considered first by the Security Council. Any recommendation for admission must receive the affirmative votes of nine of the 15 members of the Council, provided that none of its five permanent members — China, France, Russia, Britain and the US — has voted against the application. If the Council recommends admission, the recommendation is presented to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary for admission of a new State, and membership becomes effective on the date the resolution for admission is adopted. Since the Palestinian resolution is certain to be shot down by a US veto at the Security Council, the General Assembly move will only give a moral and diplomatic victory to the Palestinians and some momentum to their drive to free themselves from the humiliation of occupation.