Well it happened as expected. The UN General Assembly voted to grant the Palestinian Authority Non-Member Observer status, a step toward UN recognition of a Palestinian state. Not surprisingly there was much celebration at the UN, and among Palestinians and their supporters. In fact however, nothing has changed.
It is already well known that most of the world, particularly the developing world sides with the Palestinians and that voting record of the UN General Assemble demonstrates that Israel is wildly unpopular in the UN. This vote is simply another example.
The restrictions on basic liberties that make Palestinian’s lives so difficult remain. The checkpoints in the West Bank and the military ring around Gaza are still there. The small everyday insults that go unreported in the global press will not stop.
Last Thursday’s vote will not reduce the level of fear among Israelis that causes them to impose draconian measures against the Palestinians and to elect the most hard-line, violence prone factions in Israeli politics.
The vote does not legitimize Hamas‘ violence against Israel, nor does it make any less foolish the Hamas tactics which do nothing to change Israeli policy while strengthening the violence-prone government still in power and weakening anyone in Israel prone to negotiation or sympathetic to the Palestinian plight.
Settlements in the West Bank continue. It was reported Friday Nov. 30 that Israel is planning to build housing for 3000 settler families in the West Bank. Yes, one day the Palestinians might maneuver to have them declared illegal by the International Criminal Court, but that will not end the settlements. Only a negotiated agreement between the two parties—with the encouragement/pressure from the international community (this means you US, Quartet, Arab League!) will make a meaningful difference on the ground.
The vote does not change the fact that peace will not come to the region until Palestinians and Israelis figure out how to share that little piece of land that they both have a good case for calling home.
We actually like the tone and substance of Ambassador Rice’s statement explaining the US vote. http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/201226.htm
We however believe that the US should have abstained. Abstention would emphasize how little the vote matters to the reality on the ground and at the same time implies the even handed posture we should maintain toward the region.