Eclectic Rant: Will The U.N September Vote Be Palestine's Last Hurrah?

By Ralph E. Stone
Tuesday June 07, 2011 - 04:36:00 PM

Palestine is between the proverbial rock and hard place. Israel has no interest in good faith, meaningful peace negotiations and continues to build settlements, slowly squeezing the Palestinians into smaller and smaller space. At partition in 1947, the Jewish state was allotted 55 percent of Palestine. Since partition, the Jewish state now controls 78 percent of Palestine. The Palestinians have no choice but to call for a vote in the next session of the General Assembly in September to ratify a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. But unfortunately, President Obama has already signalled that the U.S. will veto any such resolution in the U.N. Security Council. Will this U.N. vote be Palestine’s last hurrah? 

In his May 19, 2011 speech, President Obama stated: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." But Obama all but warned Palestine that the U.S. would veto U.N. recognition. If the U.S. does veto any such resolution, we should all ask how Obama can dash the hopes of Palestinians while at the same time calling for freedom in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Libya. 

This speech expands on Obama’s June 2009, Cairo Islam speech, where he called for a Palestinian state and a freeze on Israeli settlements. At that time, Obama seemed to be announcing a neutral U.S. policy in all things Middle East or at least a less pro-Israel approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel snubbed Obama and continued to build settlements. 

On May 24, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanhu spoke to a cheering Congress. Instead of laying out his promised new vision of peace, he did his usual grandstanding, blamelaying, and fear mongering. Netanyahu all but closed the door on further negotiations. 

Of course, Congress cheered Netanyahu. Remember, on December 15, the lame-duck Congress passed Res. 1765 by a voice vote. Presented by U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D. Cal) — a self-described Zionist — the resolution calls on the Administration to “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement by the two parties.”  

"Zionism" as used in this article means a political movement concerned principally with the establishment of a state in Palestine to be controlled by and for Jews. Zionism seeks to dominate all of Palestine 

Prior to Obama’s speech, George Mitchell had quit as Middle East envoy, probably in part because of a White House decision not to push for further peace negotiations. His appointment in January, 2009 was applauded by those who thought Mitchell was the right person to bring an even-handedness to the negotiations. Perhaps, the Obama administration’s bungling and ineptitude and its refusal to get tough with Israel or to demand that Israel bring a proposal to the negotiation table, was simply too much for Mitchell. 

Israel’s Intransigence 

It should be clear to everyone who is paying attention that Israel has no intention of entering into any peace agreement with Palestine. At the creation of Israel in 1947, most of the Zionists accepted the partition resolution because they were convinced that the crucial issue at that time was to establish a firm foundation for Jewish sovereignty. In closed meetings, however, the Zionists, including David Ben-Gurion, never concealed their intention to expand at the first opportunity the territory given to the Jews. That is why the Declaration of Independence did not define the state's borders and Israel has not defined its borders to this day. 

While the Yishuv’s leadership formally accepted the 1947 Partition Resolution, large sections of Israel’s society were opposed to or extremely unhappy with partition and from early on viewed the war of 1948 ((called the “al-Nakba,” the catastrophe, by the Arabs) as an ideal opportunity to expand the new state’s borders beyond the U.N. earmarked partition boundaries and at the expense of the Palestinians. 

In 1948, Menachem Begin declared, "The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel (the land of Israel) will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.” 

Israel's intransigence during peace negotiations were revealed when Al Jazeera starting publishing stories related to its trove of more than 1,600 memos, diplomatic cables, and notes from the past decade of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The so called "Palestine papers" ( were authenticated as authentic by UK's Guardian. They show Palestinians humiliating themselves by offering enormous concessions in private with the Israelis willing to concede little or nothing. For example, the Palestinian Authority offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem, an historic concession for which Israel offered nothing in return. The papers show Israel was intransigent in public and intransigent in private. This raises the question as to why Israel should concede anything when the Palestinians were willing to concede much.  

The 1967 Borders 

On November 15, 1988, the State of Palestine was unilaterally declared in Algiers when the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s National Council adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. The independent State of Palestine is widely recognized by over 100 United Nations member countries, although oftentimes in equivocal terms. Although an independent state, it has no universally recognized borders. In 1993, the Palestinian Authority recognized the state of Israel. 

In July 2009, Khaled Meshal, Hamas's Damascus-based political bureau chief, said the organization was willing to cooperate with "a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders," provided that Palestinian refugees hold the right to return to Israel and that East Jerusalem be the new nation's capital. 

Why the 1967 borders? In the war of 1967, Egypt did not attack Israel. Rather, Israel conducted a pre-emptive strike against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. After the war, the remaining Palestinian territory was captured by Israel. Out of this captured land, Israel created the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by chopping up the land into isolated enclaves surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation forces. Under the U.N.. Charter ( charter="" documents="" en="" index.shtml="") there can lawfully be no territorial gains from war, even if a state acted in self-defense. Therefore, even if Israel’s action were to be considered defensive, its retention of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is unlawful.( 

The UN Vote 

The last thing Israel wants is for the issue to end up in the U.N with a vote for Palestinian statehood. But why not the U.N.? Consider that at the creation of Israel in 1947, the U.N. partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this partition. The action of the UN conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed a two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the U.N. had violated its own charter. Now is the chance for the U.N. to rectify its 1947 action and give the Palestinians a chance, denied them in 1947, to have a say in their future. 

Netanyahu is relying on a U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council to block recognition of Palestinian statehood. But the Palestinians and their supporters might use the rarely invoked Uniting for Peace option, which allows the General Assembly to override the Security Council with a two-thirds vote. 

Clearly, the European nations are key to the U.N. vote. The combined opposition of the European Union's 27 states and their influence could keep a resolution on Palestinian statehood from reaching the Security Council or from obtaining a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. As we speak, the U.S. is lobbying EU members to veto any such resolution. 

On June 4, the Palestinians accepted a French invitation to attend a conference in Paris in an attempt to revive peace talks with the 1967 boundaries as a starting point for talks. Israel has not replied to the invitation. If Israel does not accept, perhaps France might be a vote for Palestinian statehood. 

Another option to derail statehood recognition would be if the Israelis and Palestinians began good faith, meaningful peace negotiations before September.. 

Recent Events 

Recent events around the world might possibly persuade Israel to restart peace negotiations. Consider, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah are reportedly near a reconciliation. These two organizations were bitter adversaries for four years, but agreed in April to reconcile after a series of secret meetings brokered by Egypt. If the deal holds, will this put them on a collision course with Israel? 

After four years, Egypt reopened the border with the Gaza Strip. By doing so, Egypt has stopped enforcing the four-year Israeli blockade. The border opening did not remove all the restrictions. Under then President Hosnni Mubarak, the securing of the border was Egypt's decision to place the partnership with Israel and the U.S. ahead of solidarity with fellow Muslims in Gaza. Opening the border may signal an end or at least significantly change Egypt's relationship with Israel. 

After its ministerial meeting on May 28, the Arab League announced plans to ask the U.N. to grant full membership to a Palestinian state based on borders with Israel that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. The Arab League, or the League of Arab States, was formed in Cairo in 1945 and currently has 22 members and four observers. The members include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Maybe, the Arab states will finally exert more influence on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Of course, many Arab League members, e.g., Syria and Yemen, are dealing with their own domestic problems. 

On May 31, 2010, the Turkish aid ship the Mavi Marmara -- part of the "Freedom Flotilla" -- was attacked by Israeli commandos and nine activists died in the raid. Israel was forced to ease the blockade because of the international furor over the raid. The raid strained relations between Israel and Turkey. Turkey is seeking an Israeli apology and compensation for the slain activists' families. 

Sometime this month, "Freedom Flotilla 2" is scheduled to set sail for Gaza, carrying various forms of humanitarian aid, including medical, school, and construction materials. This second flotilla will consist of 15 ships, including the Mavi Marmara, and sail from Istanbul. In addition, ships will leave from several European countries, carrying as many as 1,500 humanitarian activists as passengers. Israel will be in the spotlight again on the eve of the September U.N. vote. 


Clearly, pressure is being applied on Israel by the international community. But the U.S. will probably continue to be Israel's ally at the U.N. and exercise its veto on Palestinian statehood. Hopefully, the mere possibility of a humiliating vote in the General Assembly will embarrass Israel enough to bring it back to the negotiation table. But Israel does not embarrass easily, especially with the U.S. in its pocket. 

If a Palestinian statehood resolution does not pass, then Palestine will have to negotiate with Israel to attain statehood with defined borders. Given Israel's intransigence, good faith negotiations may never happen. Thus, the U.N. vote may be Palestine's last hurrah. But then again, anything can happen between now and September.