Count-down to September: blah blah blah or democracy?

August 31, 2011
Sarah Benton

EU chief: UN bid ‘for Palestinians to decide’

European Union foreign policy chief won’t say how member states will vote on statehood resolution next month.
Al Jazeera

Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, finished a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories on Monday without commiting the EU to a position on the Palestinian Authority’s expected bid for statehood at the United Nations.

Ashton spent two days meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials, including Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister.

Israeli politicians used her visit as an opportunity to criticise the planned vote. Defence minister Ehud Barak called it “unfortunate and unproductive”; Netanyahu said it was “a violation of commitments by the Palestinians.”

Ashton said little about the measure during her time in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and again on Monday afternoon, during a press conference in neighbouring Amman.

“It is for the Palestinians to decide themselves the approach they want to take at the UN,” Ashton said at the press conference with Nasser Judeh, the Jordanian foreign minister.

No decision until next month
The PA plans to ask the UN for recognition, though it has not yet decided whether to pursue full recognition or “non-member observer state” status, which would put it on a par with the Vatican.

The latter requires only a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly, while full recognition also needs approval at the Security Council, where the United States has promised to veto the measure.

The PA has not yet drafted a final resolution requesting recognition; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to submit it at the General Assembly next month.

Several EU member states, including France and the United Kingdom, have said they will wait to see the final resolution before deciding their vote. Four EU members – Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic – have already said that they plan to vote against the measure.

Ashton hinted, though, that the EU could endorse the measure.

“I would hope to see something that the European Union is able to support,” Ashton said on Monday.

In a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Ashton said the revolutions sweeping the Arab world offered “a real opportunity” to restart talks between Israel and the PA.

Those negotiations have been stalled for nearly a year. They collapsed last September over Israel’s refusal to halt the construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas has said he would suspend the bid and resume negotiations if Israel agrees to stop settlement growth and to accept the 1967 borders as a basis for talks.


Will Cameron Vote for Palestinian Freedom?
By Stuart Littlewood, Palestine Chronicle

Britain and NATO were keen as mustard to establish a no-fly zone over Libya to “protect civilians” but too cowardly to do the same for the Palestinians, who are constantly on the receiving end of Israel’s vicious air strikes and armed incursions. Muslims and Christians alike have been slaughtered or maimed in their thousands and had their homes, farms and water resources stolen while waiting 63 years for the international community to deliver them from Israel’s brutal occupation.

And Israel now plans to steal Palestine’s offshore gas.

Not surprisingly, after decades of fruitless peace talks with a gun to their heads the Palestinians are about to apply to the United Nations for recognition of their own state based on the 1949 armistice lines that are universally regarded as the border with Israel.

But I was taken by surprise yesterday by an email from Avaaz, those energetic organizers of global petitions, saying that “in 48 hours, the UN Security Council will meet again to discuss Palestine’s bid to become the 194th country”. They want 1 million signatures to a petition to ramp up public pressure and get governments off the fence and supporting this long-overdue bid for freedom.

I thought the Palestinian application was going to be made on 20 September or soon afterwards, under Lebanon’s UN presidency. Meanwhile, the US and Israel have been conducting a huge diplomatic campaign to sabotage the Palestinian move. Perhaps somebody behind the scenes has calculated that their ridiculous propaganda will have worn thin by the time 20 September arrives.

Most of the world already supports the Palestinian cause. The trouble is, the will of the people in the US, Britain and most of Europe is downright ignored by political leaders who have allowed themselves to be suckered into the Zionist cause. That’s Western-style democracy for you. Freedom fighters, beware.

It remains to be seen whether Britain, whose prime minister is a self-proclaimed Zionist and has pledged “indestructible” support for the Israeli regime and whose foreign secretary has been an adoring Friend of Israel since he was in short trousers, will join in blocking the bid for freedom.

The other day David Cameron said of the successful Libyan uprising: “Our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people which is for an effective transition to a free, democratic and inclusive Libya. This will be and must be and should be Libyan-led and a Libyan-owned process with broad international support co-ordinated by the United Nations.” He’s keen as mustard – again – to do all this for the Libyans, but will he do the same for the Palestinians? When they held free and fair elections in 2006 democracy-preaching Britain didn’t like the result and joined the US and Israel in trashing the Palestinians’ fledgling democracy and strangling their economy.

It’s not difficult to imagine Cameron and Hague snapping to attention when Tel Aviv speaks, the mantra-like instructions amplified as usual by Washington… “Let there be no doubt… blah, blah…symbolic action to isolate Israel will not create an independent Palestinian state… blah, blah…no shortcut to statehood… blah, blah…must return to the negotiating table…”.

The famous trade-mark white dog ‘Nipper’, listening intently to his master’s voice from the gramophone trumpet, comes instantly to mind.

The question is, can ‘Nipper’ Cameron extract his head from that trumpet long enough to put his money where his mouth is with regard to democracy and freedom in the Middle East, and do the decent thing in tune with the British people’s wishes?

Of course, getting international support is only half the battle. I read with alarm that Saeb Erekat, Abbass’s sidekick, heads the team responsible for preparing the Palestinian submission to the UN. I thought Erekat resigned as chief negotiator following Wikileaks revelations that his team, during peace talks with the Israelis, was willing to make suicidal concessions and couldn’t negotiate its way out of a paper bag. A few months ago he was reported to be in Washington talking with US officials about reviving that same pointless peace process. How counter-productive can he get?

And such is the legal and constitutional tangle surrounding the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation), the PNC (Palestinian National Council) and the PA (Palestinian Authority), and their relationship to each other, that legal advisers now warn that a move towards statehood might adversely affect the rights of the refugees, who account for more than half of all Palestinians. If the PLO, the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, is replaced by a state the change in legal status could mean that core rights, such as the right of return, are lost forever unless the whole deal is very cleverly handled.

Are these really the right people to be in charge of Palestine’s fate?

Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to


Israel Cannot Stop Palestinian State: Proser
Palestine Chronicle

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor says Tel Aviv has no chance of stopping states that are set to vote for the recognition of a Palestinian state at the General Assembly.

In a classified cable to the Israeli Foreign Ministry last week, Prosor said that Israel will not be able to rally a substantial number of states to oppose the resolution for recognizing a Palestinian state in September, Haaretz reported on Sunday.

“The maximum that we can hope to gain [at the UN vote] is for a group of states who will abstain or be absent during the vote,” Prosor said.

He added that his comments are based on more than 60 meetings he had held during the past few weeks with his counterparts at the United Nations.

“Only a few countries will vote against the Palestinian initiative,” the Israeli envoy said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry sources estimate that 130-140 countries will vote in favor of the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority declared September 20 as the date when it would apply for the United Nations’ recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

More than 100 countries have so far officially recognized Palestine as a sovereign state based on the 1967 borders, the boundaries that existed before Israel captured and annexed East al-Quds (Jerusalem), the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.


Three-quarters of world recognizes Palestine
Ma’an News

JERUSALEM – As Palestinian leaders prepare to seek membership of the United Nations, some 124 of the world body’s 193 member states have announced their recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

A full list of the countries that have recognized Palestine can be viewed here. Their total population is over 5.2 billion people, equaling 75 percent of the world’s people.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Malki is currently visiting Africa to ask more governments to recognize the independent state of Palestine.

The Palestinians are planning to present their bid for UN membership on Sept. 20, when world leaders begin gathering in New York for the 66th session of the General Assembly.

Following the collapse of direct peace talks with Israel in September last year, the Palestine Liberation Organization adopted a diplomatic strategy of looking to secure UN recognition for a state along the frontiers which existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Countries seeking to join the United Nations usually present an application to the secretary-general, who passes it to the UN Security Council to assess and vote on. If the 15-nation council approves the membership request, it is passed to the UN General Assembly for approval. A membership request needs a two-thirds majority, or 129 votes, for approval.

The US and Israel strongly oppose the UN bid and Washington could use its veto in the Security Council to block the initiative.

In the event of a US veto, the General Assembly can recognize Palestine as a state with observer status with a two-thirds majority.

Palestine Liberation Organization officials have said they might invoke the rarely-used “Uniting for Peace” resolution, which states that if the Security Council fails to act to maintain world peace and security, the General Assembly should consider the matter in an emergency session.

PLO official Saeb Erekat has said Palestinians would activate UN resolution 377 if faced with a US veto in September.

The session can be called at the request of seven members of the Security Council or by a majority of UN member states.

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