The United Nations General Assembly is set to vote tomorrow on the Palestinian Authority bid for ‘observer state’ status; also referred to as ‘non-member semi-statehood’. The governments of Israel, the United States, Britain and Germany are in opposition to the bid. Israel however will not cancel the Oslo Accords if the 193 member Assembly votes to approve the bid.
Germany’s government echoed the Israeli and American view that any path to statehood for Palestine should take be via a final peace treaty with Israel, while Britain’s official position of concern is that a ‘Palestinian State’ would pursue Israel and perhaps Israeli citizens in the International Criminal Courts. It is not entirely clear whether Germany, Britain and the United States will simply abstain or openly vote, ‘no’. Though it is quite certain Israel will vote, ‘no’.
France, Turkey and several other European nations are quickly falling in line to vote in favor of the measure. And, there is little doubt that fellow Arab and other Muslim nations will vote for statehood. The political Left in Israel is also in public support of Palestinian statehood and moderate Kadima Part member and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has openly come out in support as well, despite the Israeli government’s official position of being against statehood.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Under Secretary of State William Burns and special Mideast envoy David Hale of the State Department today in a last minute effort by the Obama Administration to convince President Abbas to reconsider the bid. They were not able to dissuade President Abbas.
The concern of the Obama Administration aside from the likely tension a move for statehood creates with Israel is that the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives could decide to freeze funding for Palestinian Authority in response. It is also likely that Israel will seek to collect on a long standing $700 Million debt owed to the Israel Electric Corporation.
In the vote that will be taken at the UN General Assembly, the question will not just be one of statehood, but also of the recognized borders of a ‘Palestine’. President Abbas is seeking recognition of a state encompassing Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem fixed on the 1967 borders in place before the Arab-Israel Six Day War in which all these territories were seized by Israeli forces along with the Golan Heights of Syria and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
Since the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel has returned control of the Sinai to Egypt and annexed the Golan Heights as a permanent buffer zone against Syria. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, turning control over to the Palestinian Authority. Gaza since 2007 however has been ruled by the Hamas terrorist group armed and funded by Iran with monetary assistance from the United States officially for humanitarian needs. Hamas achieved control through and armed uprising, after claiming they were cheated out of victory in local Gaza elections.
Should the vote be in favor of recognizing a state of Palestine, the situation will be created whereby then new ‘Palestine’ will have official grievance over the disposition of West Bank territory and claimed borders within which Jewish settlers currently live. Israel argues that recognizing even a ‘semi-state’ of Palestine, would give false legitimization at least in the minds of Palestinians to their claims on East Jerusalem and all of the West Bank.
There are public figures in Israel who advocate that in response to a favorable UN vote for Palestinian statehood, Israel officially annex the areas of Jewish settlement in the West Bank. There has not yet been a move officially by the Israeli government or any member of the Knesset in that direction. Though with elections coming up in January and the surge in support for many right wing Likud candidates for the Knesset, that could change quickly. Particularly if subsequent to the UN vote, tensions rise or incidents of conflict erupt between Israeli security forces and West Bank Palestinians.