Palestinians bring their case to the UN


Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is set to call upon the UN General Assembly to upgrade Palestinian representation from observer to non-member state.

Today is the 65th anniversary of the UN resolution partitioning Palestine between Palestinian Arabs and Zionist Jews and the state he is asking the assembly to recognise comprises East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, occupied by Israel in 1967.

Overwhelming approval is expected. This week France, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Spain have broken ranks with the US and Israel, which oppose the proposal, and say they will vote in favour. Other European states could follow suit. The Republic is expected to support the move while Britain intends to abstain.

European governments are seeking to bolster Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, particularly at a time when he has been sidelined by Hamas, which rules Gaza. Hamas’s stock has risen among Palestinians and in the wider Arab community for firing rockets into Israel despite a vigorous Israeli response.

Two-state solution

Even US president Barack Obama, who hesitates to tackle Israel on sensitive issues, has asked it not to punish the Authority for pressing for a vote on its application.

Israel and the US argue the only way a Palestinian state can emerge is through negotiation with Israel. But Abbas no longer believes Israel is serious about the “two-state solution”; the creation of a Palestinian state in 22 per cent of geographic Palestine alongside Israel. There have been no talks in more than two years because of Israeli settlement expansion in areas demanded by the Palestinians for their homeland.

Although Israel has withdrawn its soldiers and settlers from Gaza, it has annexed east Jerusalem, maintained direct military control over 60 per cent of the West Bank and planted more than 500,000 settlers in these areas.

As the godfather of the secret negotiations with Israel that led to the signing of the Oslo accord in September 1993 Abbas is blamed for the failure of the Oslo process to achieve independence for Palestinians.

Last year, he called upon the UN Security Council, where the US, France, and Britain have vetoes on granting full membership to the organisation, to admit Palestine as the 194th member. Aware that the veto-wielding western powers could simply refuse to address the Palestinian application, Abbas also threatened to go to the assembly where there are no vetoes and the Palestinians enjoy widespread support.

Right to return

It is ironic that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to become the 194th UN member because UN General Assembly resolution 194 of December 11th, 1948, adopted near the end of Israel’s war of establishment, called for Palestinians who had fled or been driven from their homes by Israel’s pre-state underground army to be allowed return to their homes and receive compensation for their losses.

Palestinians claim this resolution grants them a “right to return” to their homes, lands, towns and villages in the 78 per cent of Palestine conquered by Israel at that time. However, this “right” was to be exercised at the “earliest practicable date”, which has never arrived.’