Friday, September 23, 2011

Abbas's UN gambit

Gabon and Bosnia are two very small, very unimportant countries that do not usually have any influence over world affairs. But, with the current situation at the UN, the importance of Gabon and Bosnia-Herzegovina has been enhanced. The Security Council of the UN is composed of five permanent members — China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States — and ten non-permament members (with year of term's end): Bosnia and Herzegovina (2011); Brazil (2011); Colombia (2012); Gabon (2011); Germany (2012); India (2012); Lebanon (2011);Nigeria (2011); Portugal (2012); South Africa (2012).

Now of these 15 countries, several are certain to vote for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, a proposal that Pres. Abbas of the PA has committed to put before the SC, something that he will announce publicly next Friday, and he will then submit a formal letter to the Secty. Gen. Ban-ki Moon. It takes nine of the countries voting to pass or reject such a resolution. But, which ones will vote for the proposition that the UN should unilaterally recognize a Palestinian State?

Now mind you, such a vote itself will be illegal and will be contrary to all previous UN SC resolutions, that promoted bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians (such as SC 242). It would be illegal because the UN can only vote to recognize a state that pre-exists the vote, such as in the cases of Israel and South Sudan, the most recent member recognized by the UN. In other words, the UN cannot establish a state (the UN "Partition Plan" of 1948 proposed partition of Palestine, it did not of itself grant sovereignty to any state), it can only recognize one that already exists, and clearly a Palestinian State does not already exist. Secondly, the UN is committed to the folllowing statement "Unilateral action taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognised by the international community," Joint Statement adopted by the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) June 26, 2009. This statement was adopted in order to indicate to Israel that the building of settlements on the West Bank, was considered an Israeli unilateral action by the Quartet. Indeed, to satisfy the US, PM Netanyahu introduced a complete moratorium on Israeli building on the West Bank for 10 months, but it was not enough for the Palestinians, and they subsequently made such a moratorium a precondition for further talks. Such a statement cannot simply be overlooked when the Palestinians take such a significant unilateral step. Incidentally, Hamas in Gaza also opposes such a resolution, because it involves dealing with the UN, the US and with Israel. So much for the unity of the Palestinians.

So the ones that will vote for the resolution irrespective are Lebanon, South Africa (because the PLO supported the ANC when they were in exile), China and India (because they think it is the third world thing to do), and probably Brazil and Colombia. Russia and Britain are likely to abstain, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy said France will only support an "observer" status for Palestine. Those who may vote against with the USA, are Portugal, Germany (Israel's traditional friend) and Nigeria. That leaves Gabon and Bosnia, so the US is plying them with all sorts of goodies to get them to vote against. Bosnia-Herzegovina is a Muslim country, although they have a large Serb minority. But their Islam is moderate and they owe their independence to the USA, so they may vote against. Gabon is merely a small, impoverished African State. They may hold the balance for the vote in the SC. If the vote appears to pass or have a majority, then the US will forced to use its veto (all permanent members of the SC have a veto) and that will stop the process. But, if the US uses its veto, that will cause anti-American riots in the Arab/Muslim world, so the US is trying to avoid using its veto. Why is Pres. Abbas, who has been treated royally by Pres Obama, inflicting this on the US?

If the SC rejects Abbas's gambit for unilateral independence then he can go to the General Assembly where he will receive a much more favorable response, with ca. 120 countries already slated to vote for the proposition. However this will also not gain them a State by itself, yet will raise all sorts of expectations in the Arab/Muslim world, that can only have negative consequences. Already there have been large demonstrations in Ramallah, that Abbas said would be peaceful. But then, of course, there were the usual riots all over the West Bank, with Palestinian youth throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers manning checkpoints (this was not shown on most media because they are pro-Palestinian). Unfortunately we can expect worse violence starting Friday after Abbas and Netanyahu give their speeches at the UN GA. But, the actual vote may not take place for some time and the worst violence may be yet to come.


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