Palestinians sceptical of UN statehood vote

The repercussions of a resolution that ends the Israeli occupation would have a resounding effect on Palestinians.

Palestinian leadership to propose a two-year deadline to end the almost five-decade occupation [Reuters]

Jerusalem – Palestinian leadership said a decision has been made to present a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that outlines a two-year deadline for an end to the almost five decades of occupation of the Palestinian territories – the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

An adviser to the Palestinian president also confirmed that a decision has been made to submit the draft to the UNSC by the Arab bloc.

According to Mohammed Ashteih, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, both the French and the Arab draft proposals have been “merged” into one and now there is one draft resolution.

The draft resolution would call for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Palestinian territories within two years and a return to negotiations with a view to achieving a two-state solution by which Israel and a Palestinian state would coexist.

A meeting was due to be held on Tuesday to reach a final decision on the issue but the Palestinian Authority (PA) postponed it pending the talks between the Palestinian delegation, the Arab foreign ministers’ delegation and the US Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers.

Wassel Abu Yousef, a senior official with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation said that the draft resolution would be submitted on December 17, but continued negotiations between Palestinian leadership, Kerry, and French officials may cause the move to be delayed.

OPINION: Enough symbolic votes, it is time to take real action on Israel

The UNSC move, however, presents a number of challenges for Palestinians, specifically the US’ veto power.

Israel, the US’ closest ally in the region, has expressed strong disapproval of what it considers a “unilateral” move on the part of the Palestinian leadership. 

But Palestinians, desperate for an end to the Israeli occupation, say the move is necessary. “The status quo can no longer continue. We demand a clear timeframe for the end of the occupation,” Husam Zomlot, senior foreign adviser of the ruling Palestinian Authority (PA) party, Fatah, and spokesman of the Commission of International Affairs, said in an interview.

Palestinians are desperate for the change that could bring peace to their lives and state [AP]

Citing the effects of modern history’s longest military occupation on the Palestinian people, Zomlot stressed that the move to approach the UNSC with the draft resolution was “vital” for a free and independent Palestinian state.

“That’s why Israel and its [allies] are trying to find ways to block it.”

Israeli news site The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that an independent Palestinian state achieved outside of direct negotiations would endanger Israel, and sees “no reason for the US to change its position” on Israel.

The US has been silent on its intentions regarding the Palestinian vote. Though senior officials have expressed concerns over a binding resolution that mandates withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank, no official has signalled a definite veto.

When asked what kind of resolution Washington might be able to support at the UN, Kerry insisted the US administration has “made no determinations … about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that”.

Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and former UN Special Rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territories, expressed doubts about US action.

Speaking before news broke about the possible delay, Falk said that it is “quite likely”  that the US will force the Palestinians to “defer the vote” until after Israeli elections.

“This will make the already compromised Palestinian Authorities look even weaker, and still playing the Oslo game,” which they should have “rejected altogether by now”, Falk concluded, referring to the historic Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords, which were meant to prepare Palestinians for statehood, but have resulted in what some have called “economic neo-colonialism.  

However, John Quigley, a professor of international law at Ohio State University who authored several books on Palestine, was more optimistic.

“I think there is a good chance of gaining the required nine affirmative votes,” Quigley told Al Jazeera. Should the resolution pass, Quigley explained that the UNSC would then need to take further action to ensure that Israel withdraws from the occupied territories. Again, the US would have to remain supportive of continued measures.

But a lack of US support may not end the issue entirely. The recent wave of recognition of a Palestinian state by European parliaments gave him further hope that “there might well be sanctions” taken against Israel, should they refuse to comply.

Netanyahu is attempting to shore up European support for a veto.

On December 16, Netanyahu asked French President Francois Hollande to halt the vote. Israeli daily Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying that during their meeting in Rome,“Hollande listened, and I don’t want to say what he said, but I said things very clearly.”

RELATED: Time to boycott Israel?

Unbeknownst to the French and Israeli heads of state, their conversation came a day after France’s recently detailed “final effort” to reach a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians that features a two-year deadline to end the conflict was rejected by the Palestinian leadership in favour of the Palestinian draft.

The French draft was dismissed due to articles that refer to Israel as a Jewish state, as well as the timetable they suggest only including negotiations, not the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

So far, the international community has done nothing but disappoint us … but if the resolution passes, we hope the Israelis will receive it as a message that the world has had enough.

by - Awad, advocacy director for the Palestinian Counselling Centre and member of the Coalition for Jerusalem

The repercussions of a resolution putting an end to the Israeli occupation would have a resounding effect on Palestinians living not only in the occupied West Bank, but also East Jerusalem and the besieged Gaza Strip.

“Any move, whether diplomatic or on the level of resistance against the occupation, will have implications for Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” Rima Awad, advocacy director for the Palestinian Counselling Centre and member of the Coalition for Jerusalem, told Al Jazeera from her office in the presumptive capital of the future Palestinian state.

Awad expressed concern about how the Israeli authorities might react if the resolution passes. She explained that the clashes and attacks in Jerusalem, which have been taking place for months but have calmed in the past week, may flare up in response to the vote.

Furthermore, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem have little faith in the UN.

“So far, the international community has done nothing but disappoint us … but if the resolution passes, we hope the Israelis will receive it as a message that [the world] has had enough,” Awad concluded.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, echoed the same sentiment. He told Al Jazeera that Hamas supported “any political measure to improve the rights of the Palestinian people”. “But we don’t trust the international community to do it on our behalf.” 

Returning to the effects of the continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, Zomlot, said that “Gaza is under draconian, subhuman siege; Jerusalem has been de-Arabised; and the West Bank looks more and more like an Israeli area.”

Speaking on the prospect of Israel complying with the resolution, the adviser expressed his doubts. If diplomatic measures fail, Zomlot says that Palestinians must “raise the cost of the occupation” for Israelis, in a nonviolent manner.

“We will redefine the relationship with the occupier,” he concluded.

Source: Al Jazeera