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...

  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →