Palestinians justified in moving to UN

Updated: 2011-09-21 17:10

By Martin Khor (

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High drama is expected at the United Nations this week as the Palestinians take their quest for statehood to the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. It also signifies their loss of hope in negotiations with Israel.

This week, the Palestinians will take a big new step in their struggle to get recognition for statehood. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will speak at the UN, requesting UN members to recognize Palestine as a state. He had two options. The first would be to ask the Security Council to grant Palestine full membership of the UN, which the United States would almost certainly veto in defense of Israel’s interests.

The second would be for the General Assembly to adopt a decision to upgrade Palestine to the status of a non-member observer state. This would indirectly mean acknowledging Palestine as a state. It would entitle it to participate in many UN agencies and conventions, too.

Last Friday, however, Abbas announced that he had decided on the first option, thereby challenging the US to take a stand. If the US vetoes Abbas’ proposal, it would be exposed as an opponent and its image in the Arab world would deteriorate.

Abbas could then use the second option and request for a vote in the General Assembly to obtain the enhanced observer status, something that would nevertheless recognize Palestine as a state. A large majority is expected to vote for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian move at the UN is going ahead despite pleas from the US and threats from Israel. The two countries have warned that doing so would set back Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for many years.

But it is precisely because the many years of negotiations have resulted in nothing but frustration for the Palestinians that they have decided to move the process to the UN. It is a sign of Palestinians’ total loss of confidence in Israel as a negotiating partner and in the US leadership as an honest broker for a just solution.

The Palestinian leaders have already bent backwards in seeking a deal with Israel, but in return have seen no progress in ending the occupation. Instead, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have increased.

US President Barrack Obama had first raised hopes that he would be tougher on Israel. He even demanded the end of new settlements and a deal on the basis of the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israel war. But facing hostile reaction from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and the pro-Israeli lobbies in the US, including in Congress, Obama has stopped active involvement in the peace efforts. Now Netanyahu appears to have gained the upper hand over Obama, getting standing ovations during his speech in the US Congress some months ago.

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