ECLECTIC RANT: Will the Palestine Authority Seek Non-Member Status in the United Nations?

By Ralph E. Stone
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:03:00 PM

In September 2011, President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, formally requested full United Nations membership for his as yet undefined country. The initiative developed during a two-year impasse in negotiations with Israel that followed the latter's refusal to freeze its settlement activities in the West Bank. The request failed because Palestine was unable to garner enough support in the UN Security Council, and faced strong opposition, including the threat of veto, from the United States. 

Now the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced plans to seek non-member state status in the UN, which would only require a majority vote of the members of the General Assembly. It would not need approval of the Security Council. There is every reason to believe that it would get majority approval. 

The PA presently has observer status, which gives it the right to speak at UN General Assembly meetings, participate in procedural votes, and to sponsor and sign resolutions, but not to vote on resolutions and other substantive matters. 

Non-member observers, on the other hand, are recognized as sovereign states. This would give the PA access to UN's institutions like the International Criminal Court, and, it would make clear that they are living under occupation, not in what Israelis sometimes call “disputed territory.” 

Why would the PA seeking non-member status? Because peace negotiations with Israel have been long stalled and Israel continues settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the PA considers illegal. For example, for the first time since 2005, new unauthorized outposts were established in the West Bank: “Nahalei Tal”, north-west of Ramallah, and “Tzofin North” (or “Tzofim North”), adjacent to the settlement of Tzofin, north of Qalqiliya. These are as opposed to the sporadic outposts that are created by the hill-top youth and evacuated every few weeks by the security forces, It is evident that the two new outposts are highly supported by the authorities. 

In addition, the economic and political conditions in Palestine have deteriorated, for which many Palestinians blame the PA. At most non-member status would be symbolic but it might calm the Palestinian populace. 

The U.S. and Israel will probably retaliate against the PA if it seeks non-member status. In fact, on November 6, 2012, Israel announced that it was pushing ahead with construction of more than 1,200 houses in two Jewish enclaves in East Jerusalem. This is an apparent warning to the PA to rethink asking for non-member status at the UN. 

Netanyahu began his tenure with the Bar Ilan Speech promising to promote the Two-State-Solution, and is now ending his term, after breaching almost all his promises. After the government rewarded the lawbreakers that built on private Palestinian lands in Migron and the Ulpana with alternative homes and other benefits, the government continues to make a mockery of the rule of law and to allow a radical minority to establish new outposts, which create facts on the ground that harm the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians. 

On November 1, 2012, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to return to the negotiations table and discuss the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. 

But consider that Israeli elections for the 120-member Knesset, or parliament, are set for January 2013. A Dahaf poll suggests that a new hawkish bloc led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will win the most seats, with the centrist labor party behind it. The poll indicates that the more liberal, centrist Kadima party would not have any representatives in the Knesset, thus, creating a right-wing government less likely to engage in meaningful negotiations. 

Will the PA formally seek non-member status in the UN or will it be cowed by U.S. and Israeli threats of retaliation? By doing nothing, Israel will slowly take over the entire country and drive out the non-Jewish population.