Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Who Will Block the Palestinian Authority at the UN?

November 23, 2012 8:30 am 0 comments

PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations. Photo: UN.

U.S. President Barack Obama was right to advise Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to seek to upgrade the status of the Palestinian delegation at the U.N. to a nonmember state in the General Assembly this month. The draft resolution that the Palestinian mission is circulating moreover decides that “the basis” of the borders of the state that it proposes are “the pre-1967 borders.” While adding that the delineation of borders are “to be determined in final status negotiations,” the Palestinian initiative uses the U.N. as an instrument to define the parameters of a core issue that was supposed to be decided only at the negotiating table. As such, it is a material breach of the Oslo Accords.

This was not the first time Israel faced a tough challenge of this sort at the U.N. At the end of 1997, Israel faced a Palestinian initiative at the U.N. that was very similar to what it is dealing with today. The Palestinian observer mission sought to upgrade its status in the General Assembly so that it would acquire many of the rights and privileges that full member states have. Essentially, the Palestinian observer mission wanted to be treated as a member state of the U.N. It argued that as an observer, it could not adequately complete all the activities that it had planned. But it really wanted the symbolism that the territories under the Palestinian Authority were already a state.

The Clinton administration at the time opposed the Palestinian upgrade, but unlike the situation in the Security Council, the U.S. had no veto power in the General Assembly. Israel needed another strategy in this case and could not rely on Washington alone. The key to opposing the Palestinian initiative at the General Assembly was the European Union; for while there were only 15 member states in 1997 (today there are 27 member states), the EU had a much wider impact. From personal experience, when many non-European ambassadors were asked how they were voting in the General Assembly on a controversial draft resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they would say that they would follow the European lead — this was true for diverse countries from Argentina to Japan.

In the first half of 1997, the rotating presidency of the European Union was held by Luxembourg, whose ambassador wanted the U.N. to review why the rights and privileges of the Palestinian observer mission were inadequate, as the Palestinian observer claimed, and work towards an upgrade. He proposed an amendment to the Palestinians upgrade request, that would first request that Secretary-General Kofi Annan prepare a report on this subject. Under U.N. procedure, the General Assembly votes on amendments before it votes on new resolutions.

The Arab states argued that the European proposal was not an amendment but a separate resolution that should be voted on later. To settle the technical dispute between the Arab states and the European Union, the president of the General Assembly called for a vote. In the end, the U.N. General Assembly decided by a 65 to 57 majority that the European proposal was an amendment and should be voted on first. Defeated on a technical issue, the Arab states withdrew their upgrade proposal for the Palestinians, though they came back a year later with a watered-down version of the same proposal that the U.N. eventually adopted.

Why was it important for the EU to take such a strong stand in 1997 and why is it still important today? What is not generally known is that the Oslo Interim Agreement of 1995 has a number of signatories, including the U.S., Russia, and the EU, whose representatives signed the agreement as witnesses. That agreement included the obligation to resolve permanent status issues, like borders, through negotiations. If Abbas is now undertaking an initiative at the U.N. which violates this core commitment in an agreement which the EU itself signed, then it has an obligation to oppose what Abbas is doing.

Today there is an additional argument that Israel can raise before European audiences. Abbas is seeking that his proposed Palestinian state include the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas. The U.N. Charter plainly states in Article 4 that “Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.” Abbas’ Palestinian state is not seeking full membership, yet; but rather for the U.N. to vote on Palestinian statehood, when the Gaza portion of his proposed state is firing rockets at Israeli cities, places it at odds with a the fundamental obligation in U.N. Charter that all states refrain from the use of force in their relations (as opposed to the right of self-defense).

In the 1990s when the states of the former Yugoslavia sought recognition and admission to international organizations, this issue was also raised by European states. In the Bosnian War, the Balkan states were firing at each other’s civilians and trying to unilaterally alter their borders. In the Palestinian case, Abbas himself does not condemn Hamas rocket fire and does not demonstrate to anyone that he is “able or willing” — to use the language of the U.N. Charter — to do anything about it. Regardless of the arguments that Israel raises, the EU will be critical of any strategy to block the Palestinian U.N. initiative at the end of November.

This article originally appeared in Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which started on Friday in New York City, features a mini-documentary about an elderly Jewish woman whose journey away from Orthodoxy leads her to taste forbidden food for the first time in her life. In Canadian director Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, Razie Brownstone talks about ending her lifelong observance of keeping kosher as her 90th birthday approaches. The recently declared atheist said the discovery of the search engine Google spurred a lapse in her Jewish faith and made her decide to […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Food Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    A Chabad rabbi from Rhinebeck, NY, will face off a priest, a pastor and a nun-in-training in an upcoming episode of the Food Network‘s reality show, “Chopped,” Lubavitch.com reported. Rabbi Hanoch Hecht – who teaches up-and-coming chefs about the intricacies of kosher dietary laws at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — was nominated for the show by a professional chef, and went through a rigorous interview process at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea, NY. Months later, he was informed he had been accepted as a contestant in the popular TV cooking competition. “I thought […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (BOOK REVIEW)

    Religion, Politics and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief by Asaf Romirowsky & Alexander H. Joffe (Palgrave Macmillan; 2013) Although this book came out several years ago, it remains pertinent. This is a meticulously researched book that concentrates on a very small bit of history: the time period from 1948-50 when the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, was organizing refugee relief in Gaza. Before UNRWA, the UN created the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). It outsourced […]

    Read more →