The UN decision to give ‘Palestine’ non-member observer state status is not likely to have any consequences on the ground. ‘Palestine’ lacks the properties of a state, and words cannot make it one. It is also not surprising that a UN General Assembly vote went against Israel, either. To paraphrase Abba Eban, if Palestine introduced a resolution that the earth is flat and Israel had flattened it, it would get 138 votes. Only 8 countries joined Israel in voting ‘no’, and of those, only the US, Canada and the Czech Republic are important (the others were the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama).
The Czechs probably remember what it is like to have foreign nations decree that part of their country should be handed over to an evil, racist enemy intent on swallowing the rest; other Europeans, even the Germans (who abstained), seem to have poorer memories.
Some things I noticed:
- Either the US was unable to effectively lobby against the resolution, it didn’t try very hard, or both.
- The vote was taken after an ugly speech by Palestinian Authority ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas, in which he called Israel a racist “colonial occupation” three times.
- Although a great deal of lip service was given in the discussion to the ‘two-state solution’, the argument that the borders of a Palestinian state must be the result of a negotiation that will take into consideration Israel’s security, as implied by UNSC resolution 242 and the Oslo Accords, did not seem to get much traction. Rather, the Palestinian view that everything outside the Green Line belongs to them seemed to hold sway.
- One would think that the fact that Israel had just been viciously attacked by the Palestinians (Gaza is included in ‘Palestine’) would have mitigated the support they received. It didn’t, and in fact many of the UN representatives that spoke said that the resolution would promote peace and an end to the conflict! They seem to think that rewarding aggression brings peace (see: Czechoslovakia, 1938).
- The view that ‘settlements are illegal by international law’ seemed widespread.
- Some non-European countries that are touted as having excellent relations with Israel, like India and South Sudan, voted for the resolution anyway.
Israel has reacted by announcing that it will not transfer $118 million in tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority, instead applying it to the debt owed to the Israel Electric Company. And it has announced plans to construct housing in the “E1 corridor,” which is between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, about 4 miles away.
These actions will be described as retaliatory and anti-peace, but in fact they are both things that Israel should have done earlier. In the 19 years that have passed since Oslo, years that included several wars and continuous terrorism, the lesson ought to have been learned that the road to peace does not run through cooperating with the murderous PLO and Hamas organizations.
Although it’s often suggested that not cooperating will make things worse — for example, Hamas could overthrow the Palestinian Authority in Judea/Samaria — it may be that the diplomatic (for now) approach of the PLO is no less dangerous than the in-your-face violence of Hamas.
The passage of this resolution, which represents a repudiation and abrogation of the Oslo accords by the PLO, ought to mark the point at which Israel takes a different course from that of the preceding 19 years.
The resolution must be understood as the final statement by the Palestinians and their supporters throughout the world that peace and security for both sides is not their goal. It should be crystal clear now that peace will not be obtained through any diplomatic process.
It therefore frees Israel to unilaterally take the steps that are required to guarantee security. Peace is not at hand — maybe it will never be, but that doesn’t mean that Israel can’t continue to survive and thrive.