On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to “upgrade” the Palestinian Authority to “non-member observer state.” The United States and Israel both strongly opposed the measure, but in the end the vote was 138 in favor, 9 against, and 41 abstentions.
The handwriting was on the wall once Britain began talking about either voting in favor or abstaining, depending on whether or not the Palestinians “gave a commitment to an immediate and unconditional return to the negotiating table with Israel,” as the UK Daily Mail reported. Such a commitment was not forthcoming – the Palestinians just wrapped up a massive rocket attack on Israeli civilians – so the United Kingdom abstained.
Once the UK dropped its opposition, most of the European powers followed suit. France, Italy, Spain, and Norway all voted in favor. Germany, which has not been happy with the construction of Israeli “settlements” but also thinks the Palestinian bid for U.N.-imposed statehood is counter-productive, abstained. “Britain’s dramatic reversal prompted the Germans to change their mind. We lost Europe,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said before the vote.
As the Daily Mail reports, the Palestinians were very happy with the outcome of the vote, although it means very little in practical terms for their daily lives:
A Palestinian flag was quickly unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly, behind the Palestinian delegation.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, hundreds crowded into the main square waved Palestinian flags and chanted ???God is great.???
Others who had watched the vote on outdoor screens and television sets hugged, honked and set off fireworks before dancing in the streets.
A massive rally was held in the city of Ramallah on the West Bank:
The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations described the observer-state vote as the Palestinians “turning their backs on peace.” Speaking at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement about the U.N. vote:
Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state, but for peace to endure, Israel???s security must be protected. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all. None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it.
The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties directly; through direct negotiations between themselves, and not through UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel???s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn???t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.
As for the rights of the Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today: No decision by the UN can break the 4000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.
A spokesman for Netanyahu bluntly described the U.N. vote as “negative political theater that takes us out of a negotiating process,” which is “going to hurt peace.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was “unfortunate and counter-productive.”
The nominal president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas – who really needed this vote in order to appear relevant, compared to the terrorist masterminds launching those missiles at Israeli civilians – said it was “the last chance to save the two-state solution” and said the General Assembly would be “called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.” That’s not quite what most of those U.N. delegates claimed they were voting for, of course.
Then again, someone at the U.N. made a typo and issued a Twitter message saying that on a day of “Solidarity with Palestinians,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “stresses the urgency of reaching a 1-state solution.” That’s a more honest description of where all this is headed. Before the Palestinians were “elevated” to “non-member observer state” status, shouldn’t they at least have been required to formally and unilaterally accept the right of the state they are most closely observing to exist?