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Dr Musa A Keilani: Sovereignty is ultimate aim
December 05, 2012
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

The Palestinians have secured an overwhelming UN General Assembly vote to recognise Palestine as a non-member state and Israel has described it as meaningless in terms of creating an independent state in the Palestinian territories it occupies.

Indeed, the 138 votes in favour of the Palestinians is highly symbolic since it reflects the international community’s support for their cause for setting up an independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital. The vote comes as a reaffirmation of the UN’s call in 1948 for the creation of a Palestinian and a Jewish state in Palestine. It might sound strange that nine countries voted against the resolution on Thursday since their vote is in rejection of the UN decision taken 64 years ago.

It is also a pity that 41 countries opted to abstain from voting. Their abstention is an escape from their responsibility to respect and uphold international legitimacy as represented by UN decisions and various charters and conventions that support the right of self-determination for every people.

As Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pointed out, a vote in favour of the Palestinians was the world body’s “last chance to save the two-state solution.”

“We did not come here seeking to delegitimise a state established years ago, and that is Israel. Rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of a state that must now achieve its independence and that is Palestine,” Abbas said.

“The moment has come for the world to say clearly: enough of aggression, enough with settlements and occupation,” Abbas said.

That is precisely what was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he said the vote was meaningless and called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians to work out what would not but be an Israeli imposition of a solution to the problem.

Adopting a clear hostile position towards the Palestinians, US Ambassador Susan Rice said the UN resolution “does not establish that Palestine is a state.”

“Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade,” Rice remarked. “And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded,” she said.

“Progress towards a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground. “

According to Rice, the only way to achieve a two-state solution is through direct negotiations. “There simply are no short cuts. Long after the votes have been cast, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other — and listen to each other — and find a way to live side by side in the land they share.”

Great words that could be easily said. Rice and her boss Barack Obama as well as others in the Obama administration know well that the only way for the Palestinians and Israelis to co-exist is through the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. More importantly, they also know that Israel has no intention of allowing an independent Palestinian state in the territories it seized through the use of military force in 1967.

By calling on the Palestinians to resume direct peace negotiations with Israel — which they know would not happen under the present conditions — Obama, Rice, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others are legitimising the Israeli position and allowing the Jewish state to further colonialise the occupied West Bank, including Arab East Jerusalem.

In the meantime, Abbas has said he is ready to resume negotiations with Israel, but he will insist on an Israeli halt to settlement building in the West Bank. That is a call Netanyahu will reject and describe it as a precondition for negotiations.

Abbas now is in a stronger position since the Hamas movement backed his quest for upgraded status for the Palestinian National Authority in the UN. But if he turns to negotiations with Israel under the present conditions, he would strain the newfound Palestinian unity.

The deadlock is likely to persist, with no realistic movement towards a solution to the Palestinian problem.

In the meantime, the Palestinians have the option to take Israel to the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity. There is abundant evidence of the crimes that Israel committed against the Palestinians since it occupied their territories in 1967, the latest being the eight-day war it waged against the Gaza Strip last month.

When he addressed the United Nations in September, Abbas specifically accused Israel of committing war crimes.

Israel, which like the US, is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that created the ICC will not co-operate with the court, but threat of being arrested while abroad could force some Israeli civilian and military leaders from travelling. Palestinians consider the strategy to take Israel to the ICC as a “legal or diplomatic intifada” that would remain a thorn on the side of the Jewish state.

The Palestinians did try to take Israel to the ICC in 2009, but the bid was turned down on the ground that Palestine was only a UN observer entity.

The new ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has said a General Assembly vote to upgrade Palestine’s status could make the difference.

The Palestinians should step up their fight to end the Israeli occupation of their land. It should now be an all-out war on all fronts excluding the military one.
The author, a former Jordanian ambassador, is the
chief editor of  Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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