An American website has leaked an official document from the Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN, which reveals a plan to seek to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status at the UN. The bid to become a “non-member observer state” is due to happen on November 29, and was confirmed officially by President Mahmoud Abbas. The bid would be put to a vote of the General Assembly and requires a simple majority to pass. The date is symbolic because on this day, in 1947, the UN voted on the Partition Plan.
The Palestinians already tried a year ago to join as a full state and suffered a defeat. According to international law (Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States) there are four conditions for recognition of state: permanent population; a defined territory; government; and capacity to enter into relations with the other states. Since there are separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza, it is impossible for the Palestinians to talk about permanent population, defined territory and capacity to enter into relations with other states. It seems though that they have a better chance to get a bid approved, thanks to the help of 12 EU states which plan to vote in favor.
The European vote is likely to follow the same pattern as with last year’s UNESCO vote according to a European Diplomat. Countries usually sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, including Belgium, Austria, Cyprus, Malta, Ireland and others, would be likely to vote for the Palestinian bid. Surely, in Jerusalem, Israeli diplomats are not surprised by the European support as much as they wouldn’t be surprised that countries like Czech Republic and Germany, which traditionally support Israel in Europe, will vote against it.
While it is clear that there are many Muslim and non-aligned countries at the UN, which will anyway support the Palestinians, it is less clear whether these European countries understand the consequences and the complex situation as a whole. First of all, Abbas does not represent all the Palestinians and the so-called reconciliation process with Hamas has failed. Hamas is against this move and they maintain control over Gaza while refusing to accept former peace agreements, refusing to renounce violence and terrorism against Israel and refusing to recognize the state of Israel. So how exactly do these European countries think that they are helping Palestinian statehood?
Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza strip, dismantled settlements and got in return a Gaza controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, an increase in the amount of rockets and mortars fired into Israel, and more separation between the West Bank and Gaza. Retrospectively, most of the top politicians in Israel including Netanyahu, Peres and Livni claimed that the disengagement should have been done differently and in coordination with the moderates in the PA.
Wouldn’t it therefore be more productive for the peace process if European countries will call on both Israel and the PA to return to direct negotiations, instead of supporting a unilateral move at the UN? The EU is interested in peace, but it must know that it will not be achieved by unilateral actions, which are counter-productive.
Tal Ofer is a Member of the European Jewish Parliament.