There is a question that requires some courage to be asked at this point in time, i.e. while the Palestinian presidency is preparing to present a request to the United Nations at the end of the month to raise the level of its representation in the international organization from that of “permanent observer mission” to a “non-member observer state.” The question is: Does acquiring this new title – if it is achieved – deserve the diplomatic battle currently waged by the Palestinian authority against the United States and a number of European countries? What will it add to the status of the Palestinians, how will it appease their suffering and how will it stop the Israeli aggressions targeting them? And more importantly, is this issue at the top of the list of the Palestinians’ priorities? In other words, do the Palestinians – whether in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or abroad – wake up every morning thinking: Today, our main concern is to acquire an observer non-member state status at the United Nations?!
It is known that last year, the Palestinian authority failed in the presentation of its request to see Palestine’s accession as a full member state to the United Nations. It is due to this failure that the request this year retreated to its current level, and in case it is successful, will grant the Palestinians the status of the Vatican at the United Nations! Does anyone think that the Vatican draws its international influence – if it has any – from being an observer non-member state at the United Nations or from the religious symbolism it enjoys among those who believe in this symbolism and are willing to respect it? The Vatican already benefited from this status when Stalin asked his famous question: How many tanks does the Pope have? Hence, this new situation will not change anything and will not offer the Palestinians any gains. Quite the contrary, it will open a useless diplomatic battle in their face with the beginning of the second term of President Obama, who clearly informed President Mahmoud Abbas that proceeding with the Palestinian request will have political and financial consequences, the most important of which being the possible discontinuation of the financial aid offered to the Palestinian authority and the closing of the Palestine Liberation Organization representation office in Washington. Moreover, the European Union threatened to sever the funding of the Palestinian authority, knowing that the Union provides an important part of the budget of the Authority, which is already suffering a deficit. And naturally, there is no need to talk about the Israeli threats, considering that Israel does not need any pretexts to threaten the Palestinians to begin with.
The Palestinian authority officials are saying that they are presenting their request to the United Nations to stress their right to the territories of the Palestinian state on the 1967 border, to transform these territories from conflicted ones to ones belonging to a state under occupation and to confront the increasing settlement activities in the West Bank and the ongoing Judaization of the city of Jerusalem.
However, the status of the West Bank and Gaza as occupied territories is already settled by the Security Council resolutions, especially the famous Resolution 242 which rejected the occupation of the territories by force. Furthermore, the American and European policies do not recognize the legitimacy of the settlement constructions on the occupied lands or the altering of these territories’ character, while the consecutive American administrations all refused to recognize Jerusalem as a capital for Israel.
In addition, not one sane person believes that the Palestinians’ earning of this partial and symbolic gain will stop the Jewish settlements. This is due to the fact that the Palestinian authority previously threatened Israel to stop the negotiations if it did not stop these settlement activities, and the negotiations were indeed halted. But Netanyahu was actually the one who used that situation to impose new realities in the West Bank and Jerusalem, through the expansion of the settlements.
Now, the priority for the Palestinians and the main concern they should be worried about – as leaders and citizens – is this shameful and ongoing division between the Ramallah and Gaza “states,” to the point where the talk about a two-state solution has become a reality, but with Palestinian hands and on the land of the Palestinian state. It is shameful that the Hamas government in Gaza presented a complaint before the United Nations in regard to the recent Israeli aggression on the Strip, as this clearly showed the international community there were two states in Palestine, one that is complaining and another that is just watching!
Hamas’s command did not make a mistake this time when it described the authority’s request of an honorary membership at the United Nations as being a waste of time, for it truly is. Indeed, it would have been better for the Palestinians to start arranging their internal home before seeking foreign recognition.
The author is a columnist at al Hayat. This article was published Nov. 14, 2012