Ongoing stalemate could shift conflict to criminal court
ANALYSIS:The UN General Assembly vote to recognise Palestine as a non-member state within the boundaries of 1967 was the fruit of seeds planted by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on November 12th, 1974, in his address to the world body.
At that time he proffered a gun and an olive branch and asked the international community to choose one as the means to secure Palestinian self-determination. Ten days later, the Palestine Liberation Organisation won observer status.
These events were regarded as the first milestones on the road Palestinians hoped would lead to statehood. Next came the declaration of independence in November 1988, followed by the signing of the Oslo accord in September 1993, celebrated round the world.
But for Palestinians the situation in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967, has grown steadily worse. Israel has continued its settlement drive, squeezed Palestinians into tight enclaves, and denied them freedom of movement within and between the occupied territories.
Most Palestinians do not believe the situation will change for the better in the short run, despite the UN upgrade.
Given political leverage by the UN vote, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is expected to insist Israel halt settlement expansion and resume negotiations on the basis of the 1967 line, conditions previously rejected by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Since 17 European states, including Ireland, France, Spain, Austria and Italy, were among the 138 countries voting in favour of the upgrade and only one (the Czech Republic) voted against, Europe could press for urgent negotiations before Israeli settlement construction makes it impossible for the Palestinian state to emerge.
Abbas could also enter serious reconciliation and reunification talks with Hamas so that the 4.3 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza can present a united home front to Israel and the world.
But if the situation continues to deteriorate, Abbas could refer Israel and individual Israelis to the International Criminal Court for violating Palestinian human rights, the laws of war, and settling, in defiance of international law, half a million Israeli citizens in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.