The United Nations’ General Assembly has awarded Palestine « the status of non-member observer state » with a view to contributing to « the solution which envisages two states, with an independent, sovereign, democratic, single and viable Palestinian state, to live in peace and security side by side with Israel on the basis of pre-1967 borders ».
The resolution was adopted by 138 votes for, 41 abstentions and 6 votes against, including the United States and Israel.
The vote, which was acclaimed by the assembly with a long period of applause, was celebrated with manifestations of joy in the Occupied Territories, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Prime Minister and the US Secretary of State, however, deplored the decision. So everything now seems to be clear, and the Press agencies feel safe to speak of a « formidable diplomatic victory for the Palestinians ».
However, when we look at it a little closer, nothing seems so sure. The result of the vote shows that the United States and Israel have done as little as possible. They made no attempt to mobilize their allies to block the decision - on the contrary, they encouraged them to allow the resolution to pass. The Obama administration allowed Congress to threaten lifting the subventions to the Palestinian Authority, but that was only a ruse designed to secure the consensus of the Palestinian street.
In practical terms, the resolution means that the PLO will continue to occupy the seat it has occupied until now, but they now have the new title of ’non-member state’. So what? What concrete advantages on the ground are gained by this semantic evolution? None!
Some editorialists pedantically explain that Palestine will now be able to register a complaint before the International Criminal Court about the Israeli occupation of their Territories, which constitutes a war crime according to the definition of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But Palestine is already constituted before the Court, and has already registered complaints in 2009, after the operation « Cast Lead » - these motions now sleep on the prosecutor’s desk. There’s no doubt that Palestine’s new status will unblock the situation, but, sooner or later, it will run into some new procrastination or procedural blockage. All of the ICC’s decisions have demonstrated that it is itself a colonial instance, and it would be naive to imagine it as anything else.
Other editorialists explain that this new status opens the way for Palestine to join one of the UN agencies. But it is already a member of Unesco, the Economic and Social Committee for Western Asia, and the Group of Asian-Pacific States.
So what is the sense of this resolution? As the text specifies quite clearly, its purpose is simply to facilitate the « two-state solution ». The General Assembly has just buried the plan for the sharing of Palestine that was adopted 65 years earlier, day for day. There’s no longer any question of creating a binational state, even less a uninational state, but two separate and distinct states. The only practical consequence of the resolution is that, from now on, the Palestinians have forbidden themselves from demanding the application of their inalienable right to return to the land which has been stolen from them.
This about-turn was announced by Mahmud Abbas on the 2nd November, during an interview on Israeli television. He declared that he wanted to see his home town, Safed in Galilee, because this is his right, but that he « didn’t want to live there ».
Once they had pronounced their usual vituperations, Benjamin Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton were able to retire behind closed doors and open the champagne - the PLO and Hamas, who had reacted angrily to Abbas’ declarations three weeks ago, have now foregone the rights for which three generations of Palestinians have suffered terrible privations and sacrifices – and this, without any compensation in return.
The day after this « historic vote », once the cohorts of the Press had left, the General Assembly adopted six other resolutions on the Palestinian question. Reading them, we may conclude that they mask an agreement between the major powers and the Palestinian ruling class - an agreement which, we hope, is guaranteed by solid engagements, failing which it will all have been smoke and mirrors.
We are heading towards the continuation of the Madrid Conference (1991). On the one hand, it is admitted that the problem is not Israelo-Palestinian, but Israelo-Arab. On the other, the United States cannot be the only sponsors of the negotiations, which must of necessity, include Russia, and even other permanent members of the Security Council and the Arab League. It’s from this standpoint that the General Assembly called for a global conference for peace in the Middle East in Moscow, as it was planned four years ago (resolution 1850), and which is still deferred.
The elements of the consensus include the restitution of the Golan Heights to Syria (although Israel would keep the waters of Lake Tiberias) and the possible creation of a Jordano-Palestinian federation (with or without the Hashemite monarchy). But global peace can only be contemplated if Syria is herself at peace, and capable of stabilizing the region’s numerous ethnic groups (which implies that Bachar el-Assad must remain in power during the transition period).
This all resembles what James Baker, in 1991, and Bill Clinton, in 1999, attempted to create - and what Barack Obama also envisaged at the beginning of his first mandate in 2009, when, in Cairo, he evoked the Palestinian right to their own state. That project is very different from the one for which the Palestinians have been fighting for 64 years. It allows us to envisage peace, but not justice. The basic problem will remain, and it’s the prime source of the multiple current conflicts - the colonial nature of the state of Israel, and the system of apartheid which results.