Palestinian Lost Opportunities

The Palestinian leadership has chronically fails to take advantage of its diplomatic gains.

By Jamal Kanj

Just over a week ago Palestine had a chance to cast its first vote at the UN General Assembly appointing a Judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas first submitted the UN membership application on September 23, 2011. The vote was delayed for a year providing time for the Obama administration to persuade Israel to cease construction of the illegal Jewish-only colonies on occupied Palestinian land.

On November 29, 2012 and after a year lost, the international community overwhelmingly granted seat number 194 to Palestine as a non-member observer state at the UN General Assembly. But what did that mean? For the last year it meant naught.

Palestinian leadership was forced to backpedal agreeing last summer to negotiate over the “pie” while Israel continues gulping it.

The US even acceded to Israeli conditions limiting American participation to less than an observer and appointing Israeli firster Martin Indyk as the US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Mr Indyk was deputy research director for the strongest foreign lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in the 1980s, and was the first ever US ambassador to have his security suspended while serving in Tel Aviv. According to American mediators, Palestinians promised to freeze efforts to join UN organisations, like the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during the nine months negotiation schedule. By now the negotiation has reached almost halfway mark and the talks haven’t moved an iota under the guidance of the US appointed former AIPAC’s employee.

As part of the deal, Israel agreed to release around 100 Palestinian prisoners. To secure continued Palestinian participation in this futile exercise, Israel decided to release the prisoners in four or five groups. Each release has been preempted by an announcement of more illegal Jewish-only homes.

Israel is holding the prisoners’ hostage to force Palestinians stay the course for the nine months sham public relation exercise. Gaining more time to build Jewish-only colonies making it that much more difficult to reach amicable outcome at the negotiation table.

Since its ascendance to the new status a year ago, the government of Palestine has not taken full advantage of its membership, contented instead with meaningless timid international condemnations of Israel’s intransigence.

To paraphrase Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, the Palestinian leadership has never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity to hold Israel accountable for its flagrant violations of international law.

Case and point, earlier this month an independent Swiss lab identified Polonium-210 the cause for Yasser Arafat’s death and whereas Israel was a country with the motive and the proven capability to produce the radioactive substance, but since Palestine was not a member in the World Court, the Swiss findings was dead on arrival.

In 2009 it failed to pursue UN Human Rights investigation – Goldstone report – which accused Israel of war crimes for targeting civilians in Gaza between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009. In 2004, ICJ found Israel’s separation wall and its associated regime unlawful. A ruling that remained locked in the court’s cabinets.

The Palestinian leadership has been very successful at condemning Israel and investigating its crimes, but chronically fails to take advantage of its diplomatic gains, eviscerating international findings from any value.

There is no guarantee that Palestine’s application for the World Court would not face strong opposition, but waiting for another nonproductive US/Israeli public relation exercise before joining ICJ is great political blunder.

Unlike stealing land for Jewish only homes, joining UN organizations – symbol of international harmony – couldn’t be counterproductive to peace negotiations.

– Jamal Kanj ( writes weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to (A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)

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