Another Gain for Perseverance: The UN Vote on Recognizing Palestine. And Yet…

Publication date: 
Friday, December 14, 2012

 

On one level, the General Assembly’s overwhelming vote to recognize the state of Palestine represented a significant achievement for the PLO/Palestinian Authority. It reaffirmed international support for Palestinian self-determination and demonstrated just how isolated Israel and the US are on this issue. The significance of the vote went beyond the merely “symbolic.” Unlike previous attempts, some even supported by Israel, to recognize a “Palestine” but without borders, the UN resolution explicitly recognizes “the State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967.”

 

This deals a death blow to the Israeli assertion that there is, in fact, no occupation, based on its invention of a highfaluting Principle of the Missing Reversionary, by which it argues that occupation can only occur when one sovereign state conquers the territory of another sovereign state, thus dismissing Palestinian national claims. Though never accepted, that Principle is now gone: the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 are officially recognized as sovereign Palestinian land, Occupation is an undisputed fact (as the ICJ reaffirmed in its 2004 ruling on the Separation Barrier), Israel stands in gross violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and its actions, including house demolitions, constitute grave violations of human rights, and perhaps worse (war crimes and crimes against humanity). This is why Israel, the US, Britain and others sought to pressure the Palestinians into agreeing before the vote that they would not turn to the International Criminal Court, to which they now have access. And this is what remains to be seen: the UN resolution is meaningful only if the Palestinians leverage it into practical steps designed to end the Occupation. If they in fact turn to the ICC, if they insist on negotiations based on the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN resolutions rather than trying to simply negotiate around Israel’s “facts on the ground” as they have so far, then perhaps this resolution has some meaning. Thus far the Palestinians have failed to act on their diplomatic achievements. And this is the suspicion: that a deal was struck, perhaps when Hillary Clinton visited Ramallah in the midst of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, that the PA can have its moment at the UN without being “punished” by the US or Israel if it simply leaves it at that.

 

The UN resolution also contains two key terms that would spell the end of Israeli settlements and its attempt to hold on to its seven major settlement blocs, as well as it attempt to impose a form of apartheid: the General Assembly’s commitment to a “contiguous and viable” State of Palestine.” But herein lies the rub: we at ICAHD have long argued that the two-state solution is gone, buried under Israel’s massive “facts on the ground: (Meron Benveniste argues that it disappeared already in the 1908s). Israelis completely missed the significance of Israel’s “punishment” when it finally came (contrary to promises given to Clinton and, had the Palestinians been serious about leveraging their new-found independence, grounds for immediately turning to the ICC): construction in E-1. Jeff Halper wrote back in 2005 that building in E-1 would signify an undeniable end to the two-state solution – a view that successive American administrations have held as well. ICAHD’s standard Matrix of Control tour takes participants to the Ma’aleh Adumim settlements where they clear see the implications on the ground of E-1 settlement. 

 

On paper, then, the UN’s recognition of a Palestinian state, the enhanced ability it gives the Palestinians to effectively pursue diplomatic and legal channels in their quest for self-determination, and the legal and political inadmissibility of Israel’s actions on the ground, including house demolitions, all give new life to the two-state solution. Logistically it is also possible; after all, around 90% of the “settlers” live in the OPT for economic and not ideological reasons, and would be willing to move if their standard of living was not compromised. But this is all on paper. The lack of will on the part of the international community to genuinely pressure Israel into leaving the Occupied Territory, including enough of East Jerusalem that a Palestinian capital can be established, reduces that eventuality to nil. Even given the outrage prompted in Europe by Netanyahu’s decision to build in E-1, British Foreign Secretary William Hague dismisses any notion of actual sanctions on Israel (despite the fact that Itay had taken British diplomats to E-1 and had briefed Alistair Burt, head of the Middle East and North Africa Desk of the British Foreign Ministry, on the disappearance of the two-state solution).

 

ICAHD congratulates the Palestinians on their formidable achievement in delegitimizing the Occupation and reaffirming Palestinian national rights. It seems, however, that the political task before us is to begin envisioning a one-state solution and legitimizing its very discussion. Our Palestinian partners have only begun to move in that direction, but it is clear that a genuinely sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian state will not emerge alongside Israel. A main role for ICAHD in the future is helping to articulate an inclusive and just solution, one that has yet to emerge.