Late Thursday evening, Israel time, the UN General Assembly voted to confer nonmember statehood on the Palestinian Authority by a sweeping majority.
Even Israel’s hopes of putting together a “moral minority” of Western-country nays had crumbled, with France and Italy pronouncing themselves in favor of the Palestinian nonmember state and Britain and Germany abstaining. Israel, the United States, Canada, and the Czech Republic stood virtually alone in opposing the move by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
The nonmoral majority of Western countries ratified Palestine (actively with ayes or passively with abstentions) even though doing so is a blatant violation of the Oslo Accords they had once piously sanctioned. And they did so even though last week and the week before, Gaza—where almost half of Palestinian Authority Palestinians live—had fired 1600 hundred rockets at civilian targets in Israel, every single firing a manifest war crime intended to kill and injure men, women, and children.
It is said that the Gaza eruption led some European countries to change their minds and vote in favor of the resolution (or abstain) so as to strengthen Abbas’s “diplomatic” approach over Hamas’s violence. Abbas’s diplomatic polish and peacemaking disposition were well in evidence when he addressed the General Assembly in September, saying among other things:
During the past months, attacks by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers have become a daily reality, with at least 535 attacks perpetrated since the beginning of this year. We are facing relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries, and our homes and schools; they are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli government.
As Israel’s UN ambassador Ron Prosor noted in a stinging op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “Many countries in the Assembly are taking an approach to Palestinian statehood that is…Pavlovian…. For decades, the body has rubber-stamped any Palestinian whim no matter how ill-advised, ill-conceived or illogical.”
Prosor went on to list some glaring shortcomings of the Palestinian Authority/Gaza that—seemingly by any normal calculus of Western countries—would disqualify it rather than qualify it for statehood, such as:
● Lack of control over territory, with Abbas’s Ramallah-based, official Palestinian Authority having had zero control over Gaza since Hamas seized power there in 2007. Prosor could have added the tenuousness of Abbas’s rule in the West Bank itself, where towns are run by clan-based extortion gangs and Israeli forces are all that prevents a Hamas takeover.
● The fact that Gaza is a terrorist state in every sense of the term, “a haven for global jihadist organizations like al Qaeda,” a beachhead for Iran in its ongoing war for Israel’s annihilation.
● The fact that democracy has not exactly flourished in Islamist Gaza or, for that matter, in the West Bank, where “journalists, bloggers and activists continue to be jailed and tortured…for crimes such as ‘extending their tongues against the Palestinian President’” (see reports here and here).
● The fact that the Palestinian Authority is bankrupt, totally dependent on foreign aid, yet “devotes 6% of its annual budget to payments for imprisoned terrorists and the families of suicide bombers”—while using its educational autonomy to instill a culture of hatred of Israel.
And to all this Europe voted yes—or at best took refuge in a cowardly neutrality.
It has been widely observed that, while General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding and lack standing in international law, the promotion to “state” status will give the Palestinian Authority access to world bodies like the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where PA figures have already threatened to file claims against Israel for “war crimes,” “occupation of a sovereign country,” and the like.
Considering the authority’s dependence on Israel and the West both to stay solvent and keep from being swept away by Hamas, many believe these threats are just bluster and the weak, aging Abbas won’t really seek such confrontations. The Israeli leadership, for its part, is taking a wait-and-see approach. On Thursday night U.S. senators were already threatening to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and the UN.
But even if the General Assembly vote remains on the symbolic plane for now, the Palestinian access to the ICC entails future dangers for Israel and constitutes a victory over it. Those wondering about Israel’s “right-wing” or “nationalistic” tendency these days can find some explanation in the cynicism displayed by almost all the world’s countries in the General Assembly on Thursday.
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