UN-ilateral Politics

By Jamal Kanj

Frustrated with the circuitous peace process and absence of a universal enforceable framework, Palestinians decided last year to turn to the United Nations (UN) to seek full state membership at the international body.

Their hopes were buoyed in 2010 by US President Barack Obama’s speech at the UN declaring: "When we come back next year, we can have an agreement that will lead to a new member of the United Nations, an independent, sovereign state of Palestine."

That vision was thwarted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pursued instead the building of Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Lack of political will on the part of the US and European Union to end Israel’s violation of the Oslo Accord left Palestinians with no option but to seek UN recognition of a state on only 22 per cent of historical Palestine.

Negating the president’s speech, the US successfully led an Israeli proxy campaign last year to block a Security Council vote on the application for full UN membership.

Thereafter, the Palestinian leadership shelved their plans – even offering to forgo UN membership if only the US and Middle East Peace Quartet would set a reciprocal binding framework for peace negotiation.

In the absence of serious international efforts, Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas declared at the opening of the UN General Assembly session last month his intention to bypass the Council and pursue instead non-member observer status at the UN under "Uniting for Peace" rules.

This was first invoked by the US in 1950 in response to a Council impasse over the situation in Korea.

The rule stipulates that in case the Council "fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security", the matter can be brought directly to the General Assembly.

For 20 years, the US and the EU have failed to force succeeding Israeli government to accept a vision for an independent Palestinian state.

In fact, over the same period Israel has more than doubled its illegal settlement population on occupied Palestinian land.

Peace requires two willing parties.

The current Israeli government was elected on a platform that pledged to reject "the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river" and ensure "the Jordan river will be permanent eastern border of the State of Israel".

The US and EU have long ago forced the Palestinians to cancel their national charter and have isolated Hamas for refusing to change its platform.

It is high time the US and Europeans took similar action against Israel’s governing parties.

As for the US role, the Palestinian leadership must stop deluding itself. The peculiar US policy in the Middle East is dictated by a small number of unchecked Israeli "firsters".

Thomas Mooerer, a former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, once summed up this relation stating: "I’ve never seen a president stand up to them. They (Israelis) always get what they want. If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms."

Until they "rise up", the US economy is struggling, American taxpayers are footing Israel’s occupation bill, while Israelis are enjoying a prosperous economy under a de facto status quo.

– Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes a weekly column on Arab issues and is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. (This article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.)

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