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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.