Palestinian Statehood: An Ominous Vote at the U.N.

Vote to be held Thursday expected to pass.

Permanent United Nations Observer of Palestine, Riyad H. Mansour, heralded the upcoming vote by the United Nations General Assembly on November 29th to upgrade the Palestinians' status to an observer "state" as an "historic event."  He boasted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's maneuver, in which Abbas will personally appear at the General Assembly and present the resolution for a vote, was a form of resistance to Israeli occupation that Mansour labeled "diplomatic resistance."

Speaking to reporters at United Nations headquarters in New York two days prior to the vote, Mansour asserted that the General Assembly will be "legislating" international recognition of the Palestinians' claim to statehood, with "borders based on June 4, 1967" and East Jerusalem as its capital. He said that every nation, whether voting for or against, should respect the result because "what we are doing is legal, honorable" and following the "democratic way," the "multilateral way."

Mansour characterized the General Assembly vote on the 65th anniversary of the original General Assembly partition Resolution 181 in 1947 as completing the UN's "legislating" of a two-state solution. Responding to a question as to whether the Palestinians were willing to admit that it was a mistake on the part of their leaders and neighboring Arab countries to reject the partition resolution, he dismissed the premise of the question as futile "score keeping." The Palestinians like to cherry-pick the parts they now like in the partition resolution they once rejected.  Most importantly, Resolution 181 referred several times to the "Arab and Jewish States" resulting from the partition.  To this day, Abbas refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state as part of a two-state solution.

With the UN General Assembly's recognition of Palestinian statehood in its pocket, Mansour said that the Palestinians then would be ready to negotiate with the Israelis as one state to another on the terms of Israel's end to its "occupation" of the Palestinian "state."  He invited Israel to join in the negotiations in good faith, but did not rule out the possibility that the Palestinians would go as a "state" to the International Criminal Court to seek legal action against Israel, if Israel did not play ball.

Mansour said that the Palestinian observer state resolution has nearly sixty co-sponsors, and he expects many more to join in co-sponsorship once they have had an opportunity to review the Palestinians' revised draft.  He expects the final vote to be overwhelmingly in favor, and made a special appeal for European support.

France, which voted for the Palestinians' full membership in UNESCO, has publicly announced its support of the Palestinians' upgrade of status to observer state. Mansour lavished praise on France for its decision. He also said that Spain appears to be on board.  Other European countries have been more circumspect in announcing their intentions, but the ambassador from a non-permanent member of the Security Council estimated that anywhere between 11 and 15 European countries are likely to vote Yes.

The United Kingdom's UN ambassador indicated to reporters that his country had not yet made a decision which way to vote, but was working with the Palestinians on possible wording changes to their latest revised draft of the resolution.  However, when Mansour was asked whether the Palestinians would entertain any further changes or amendments to their text, he flatly said no.

With all of Mansour's talk about the upcoming international embrace of the Palestinian state, he tried to put the best face possible on the underlying split of territorial control between Hamas and Fatah. Mansour referred several times to Gaza as "the southern portion of our homeland."  He also claimed that Hamas, like Fatah, supported a two-state solution. The problem, however, is that neither Fatah, the Palestinian Authority nor Abbas himself speak for Hamas, which remains committed to Israel's destruction.

The pre-requisite to achieving statehood under international law is government control of all the territory said to be encompassed within the state. Consequently, I asked Mansour why President Abbas did not visit Gaza during the recent hostilities between Hamas and Israel as the Arab League had suggested, and whether Abbas's decision not to visit Gaza indicated that the Palestinian Authority has no control as a practical matter over the Gaza territory.

Mansour conceded what he said was an obvious fact - "division" between the "two wings of our homeland." The solution, he said, was either full implementation of the reconciliation plan worked out in Cairo and Doha or prompt elections to choose a new leader. Hamas has stalled on reconciliation, anticipating a ringing electoral victory in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas's "diplomatic resistance" at the United Nations this week appears to be a Hail Mary pass to stay relevant.

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