The UN Invents Palestine, Again
" "We now have a state!" Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestine Authority (PA) (1)
The Arab State of Palestine, proposed by the UN in 1947, has existed in the hearts and minds of Palestinian Arabs ever since, and the UN affirmed its existence just last week by voting 138-9 to recognize the PA as a "non-member state" of the body. In an age of virtual schools, "cloud computing" and various entities that exist only in cyberspace, why not a state that exists on paper, at the UN and in the collective consciousness of its citizens, but not on earth?
The inconvenient truth is that the PA has only partial authority in part of the West Bank and no power at all in Gaza. The UN vote did not free a single Palestinian prisoner, remove one Jewish settler from the West Bank or transfer one square foot of land to PA control. But here is what it did to the parties to the conflict:
The Palestine Authority has been receiving about $900 million per year from the United States government and another $1.2 billion in tax-transfer payments from Israel. Israel announced yesterday that the transfer payments have been suspended, and it is questionable if Congress will support continued foreign aid to the PA. especially at a time when the US budget faces big cuts. It is far from clear that Abbas can replace this $2.1 billion per year from other sources, even if the UN supports the PA with words. Since the resolution approved by the UN declares that Israel exists only within the "pre-1967 borders", the PA will be loathe to compromise even one square inch, if negotiations with Israel ever resume.
Israel had agreed in the Oslo Accords not to take any unilateral action that would change the status of the land sought by the Palestinians for their new state. But when the PA went to the UN seeking the status of a non-member state, it relieved Israel of any obligation to abstain from unilateral actions, such as annexation of territory. Israel has already approved over 3,500 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the UN vote, and there is no disincentive to approve more. For the Israelis, Oslo is just a city in Norway now.
The United States, joined only by Canada, Panama, Israel , the Czech Republic and four tiny nations (2) stood by Israel on this vote isolated from its usual allies in Europe, South America and Asia. (Only the US veto in the Security Council prevents the PA from becoming a full member of the United Nations.) Instead of American leadership in the international community, we saw American isolation. Although the vote was cast by Ambassador Susan Rice, the decision was clearly made by President Barack Obama, who has been lambasted as "anti-Israel" for four long years by Jewish conservative pundits. Will they now admit that sometimes Obama stands with Israel, even in the face of enormous international opposition? Don't hold your breath!
Gerald S Glazer
(1) Associated Press, December 3, 2012.
(2) Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.