Russia voted “yes” and hopes that a higher UN status for Palestine will promote the resumption of peace talks with Israel. But international experts are divided: while some are optimistic about the future, others are pretty skeptical.
Palestinians went euphoric over Thursday’s “yes” vote, triumphant and full of confidence that they are just a step away from sovereignty. But one important thing they are yet to realize is that a key obstacle towards full-fledged statehood is Palestinians themselves. There are, in fact, two separate Palestine territories. One is the West Bank of the Jordan ruled by Fatah. Founded by leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat in 1957, Fatah has gone a long way from purely terrorist tactics to peace talks and the actual recognition of the Jewish state.
The other is the Gaza Strip controlled by Fatah’s political rival, Hamas, which favors the establishment of a Muslim caliphate and calls for a war against zionists. Fatah and Hamas have different goals and different ideologies, the former being secular nationalists, and the latter – Islamic internationalists.
It should also be remembered that Palestine is financially dependent on Israel and the Unites. Given the latter circumstance, it’s not in Palestine’s interest to irritate the West. But that’s what it actually did, scornful of a likely negative fallout.
Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of the Russia in Global Politics magazine, gives his view:
"It’s sadly ironic that while Palestine’s UN status is being enhanced, the Palestinian statehood project, conceived and mapped out 20 years ago as a so-called peace process, is virtually dead. The war in Gaza has sent a further reminder that, first, there will be no independent state there, and, second, that Mahmoud Abbas is now in the limelight. I have a feeling that the Palestinian issue will be resolved some other way, if at all, and in connection with another state – Jordan. Undoubtedly, the boat is being rocked there: the salafis have intensified, supported by Qatar; the Muslim Brotherhood is looking upon it as its next prey. What is Jordan? It’s a country with Palestinians account for 70% of its population. On the one hand, we are moving towards recognition of a Palestine that was contrived on a White House lawn, a project that won its authors a Nobel Peace Prize, and on the other hand, it looks like the real Palestine will be formed elsewhere, with major conflicts and unpredictable consequences."
At the same time, the international community cannot wave off the Middle East peace process, given the region’s important role in the system of global stability. Despite criticism, the Middle East Quartet (Russia, the United States, the EU and the UN) continues to stick to the earlier approved “road map” in the absence of any other mechanisms. The Middle East peace process is clearly stalemating and needs drastic and urgent modernization. It remains to be seen whether Palestine’s new UN status will give it a spur.
As the Israel-Palestine conflict rages on and the UN approves the de facto recognition of a sovereign state of Palestine, Professor Mervyn Frost, head of the department of war studies at King's College, London, turns to ethics to explain the fundamental tensions and uneasy questions regarding the current standing and probable future for the Middle Eastern conflict.
It is widely assumed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dominated by power politics, balancing coalitions and pragmatic viewpoints. Within this context, ethical considerations are viewed at best as a minor issue, if not a wholly irrelevant one. In a recent seminar on “Ethics, Foul Play and War in Contemporary International Relations” at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, Professor Mervyn Frost objected to such a grim picture of international affairs and proposed a more nuanced and eloquent argument which could potentially bring together the apparently opposing issues of power politics and ethics.
Prof. Frost contends that the ethical commitments of nations and their citizens are profoundly dichotomised into two interconnected ethical practices. On the one hand, there is the fundamental right of states to protect their citizens. To an extent, this can be seen as an ethic of responsibility, wherein a sovereign state has the inalienable right and duty to protect its nationals. On the other hand, there is an ethic of responsibility toward the broader civil society of states. For Prof. Frost these two ethics are intricately intertwined and inseparable.
From this perspective, the current situation in the Middle East can be viewed as a conflict between two ‘responsible states’. On the one hand, both, Israel and Palestine have the ethical responsibility to protect their citizens from external aggression and violence. Moreover, since both political entities are now recognised as states, both Israel and Palestine have the fundamental right of self-determination under the UN Charter. On the other hand, both states participate in a global civil society and thus should behave in accordance with internationally established and recognised norms. Prof. Frost argues that acting in line with global ethics is of paramount importance, since failure to comply with international norms leads, all too often, to exclusion from co-operative practices and significantly diminishes the player's ability to constructively pursue its own interests in the international arena.
Indeed, for more than sixty years Palestine has been largely excluded from international affairs, precisely because the global society of states viewed its behaviour as non compliant with international norms and morals. This raises an inevitable question; what has changed so profoundly that 139 states have now voted to grant Palestine ‘non-member observer state’ status, which not only implicitly recognises Palestine as a sovereign state, but also marks a symbolic acceptance of Palestinian Autonomy within the global society of legitimate sovereign states?
While Prof. Frost’s seminar was held before the UN final vote, it can be inferred that he would suggest that such a sudden change of heart can hardly be attributed to mere power politics or prudent consideration by various states. For Prof. Frost, power is not the only, and probably not even the primary, factor denoting a state’s position in international society. The Professor contends that for a state to maintain, or in the case of Palestine to achieve, membership of a global society, they must simultaneously fulfil the requirements of both ethical dimensions: they have to defend and augment the rights of civilians under their care, and simultaneously respect those beyond their borders as well as the sovereign rights of other states. In this respect, it can be argued that the recent ‘Pillar of Cloud’ operation, which ended in a ceasefire last Wednesday, played a significant role in the way the General Assembly voted. With a great number of civilian casualties and a raging humanitarian crisis in post 'Pillar-of-Cloud' Palestine, the Israeli operation has been widely condemned by such states as Turkey, Qatar, Iran, and Egypt, for its violence and aggression. Consequently, yesterday’s vote in the UN was likely to be influenced by global ethical concerns. This tends to support Prof. Frost’s hypothesis concerning the particular importance of ethics in conflicts and international politics more generally.
As for the future prospects for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Prof. Frost cannot give a definitive answer. Both states have the inalienable duty to protect their territories and citizens from external aggression, and neither Israel nor Palestine will abstain from this responsibility. Nonetheless each state also has responsibilities toward the wider society of world states, and this is where changes can be seen. If one state betrays the international normative framework and is subsequently politically expelled from the wider civil society, it will not only profoundly influence that state’s ability to negotiate its position in conflict, but can also lead to coercive force being used against it by the global civil society to restore justice. The professor explains his theory underpinning the "why and what" but for the 'how', the world can only wait to see what happens next.
Palestine is now a UN observer state
With a majority vote, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday night, granting Palestine the status of an observer nation in the global organization.
138 countries, including Russia, China and South Africa for the resolution and 19 states against it including Israel, the U.S., and Canada with the rest of the member countries abstaining.
The adopted document reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the independence of the State of Palestine with its territory based on the 1967 borders.
Recognition as a state will allow the Palestinian National Authority to apply to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, with lawsuits against the Israeli occupation of its lands.
Members have also pointed to the need for an early resumption of the Middle East peace process.
This provision was in response to the fears of the U.S. and Israel, who believe that the Palestinians have achieved self-determination unilaterally.
Russia sees the upgrading of Palestine’s status to a UN non-member state as a milestone event on the path of restoring the historical justice.
This came in a statement by the Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin.
The diplomat said specifically that Moscow saw the vote by a majority of the world nations as a momentous event on the way to restoring the historical justice and that now it is indispensable that an independent and viable Palestinian state exists in peace and security, and side by side with Israel.
Churkin also said Russia had received assurances from Ramallah that recognition of Palestine as a UN observer state would not be used as an instrument to politically isolate Israel.
The UN General Assembly has voted to upgrade Palestine’s diplomatic status to that of a “non-member observer state.” This came despite opposition from the US and Israel and may now allow Palestinians access to UN agencies.
The Palestinian bid to join the global body as a full member state failed in 2011 due to lack of support at the UN Security Council. To get the “non-member observer state” status, the Palestinians only needed a simple majority at the 193-member General Assembly, such a status is already held by the Vatican.
Among many other nations the Palestinian bid for an upgraded diplomatic status was backed by a number of EU states, including France, Spain, Denmark, Portugal and Austria. The UK preferred to abstain from the vote.
The bid had overwhelming support from developing nations.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella group of various Palestinian factions, had previously had only “permanent observer” status at the UN.
The new status now grants the Palestinians more weight in peace talks with Israel and gives it a greater chance of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Joining the ICC would give the Palestinians greater a legal basis for pursuing possible war-crimes prosecutions against the Israeli military.
However despite the support, the French Foreign Minister warned Palestinians against pursuing Israel in the International Criminal Court, calling such a move “counter-productive.”
The UN General Assembly vote on the status of the Palestinians is the "last chance to save the two-state solution" with Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas has said.
The assembly is to vote on upgrading the Palestinian status from observer entity to non-member observer state.
The bid has strong European and Arab support but is opposed by Israel and the US. The UK may abstain.
Mr Abbas called on the UN to issue a "birth certificate of Palestine."
Opponents of the bid say a Palestinian state should emerge only out of bilateral negotiations.
Israel and the US say the Palestinians are trying to seek full statehood via the UN, rather than through negotiation as set out in the 1993 Oslo peace accords under which the Palestinian Authority was established.
Israel's ambassador to the UN, Ron Proser, said "the only way to reach peace is through agreements" between the parties, not at the UN.
The bid "doesn't advance peace - it pushes it backwards," Mr Proser told the assembly.
The Palestinians are seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in 1967.
France, Spain and Norway are among those urging the General Assembly to raise the Palestinians' UN status. Germany is set to abstain.
The UN General Assembly is discussing the Palestinian Authority’s bid for non-member observer status.
The Palestinian leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, will voice an official request for the status upgrade, followed by a debate and vote.
Many nations, including France, Spain, China, and Russia have pledged to uphold the request.
Opponents of the upgrade include the US, Germany and some other countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called a realistic task the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
In today’s address to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,Putin particularly praised Palestinians’ persistent push for independence and sovereignty.
He called for a just political resolution of the Palestinian problem that he said would contribute to a more peaceful Middle East.
Putin said that the resolution of the task comes against the backdrop of the ongoing transformations in the region.
The message was read by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow earlier on Thursday.
Moscow hopes that Israel will make no destructive moves if Palestine upgrades its status to nonmember observer state, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reports Thursday.
The diplomat said that Russia backs peaceful resolution of the conflict based on Palestinian-Israeli talks and by no means believes that Palestine’s status upgrade could substitute the talks which should begin the sooner the better.
Voice of Russia, AFP, Reuters, RIA, TASS, RT