Yesterday the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas received a standing ovation from the UN General Assembly as he presented his country’s bid for statehood to the Security Council. It was by all accounts an historic moment. And yet, amid the furore, we all knew that the Council will not pass the bill because of the US, whose government is doubly bound to its obligation to oppose a Palestinian state. Firstly, the US and Israel are joined at the hip, and secondly no one in America is willing to risk the wrath of American Jews a year before the election. They will, therefore, veto any positive ruling.
Which is a shame, really. Everyone, even the US and Israel, has long been agreed that peace in the Middle East will only be achieved with the creation of two separate states (apart from the Palestinian, Islamist group Hamas – which still wants to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth). I too am an advocate of the two state solution. Problems have arisen, however, because no one can agree where these states should draw their boarders. The popular refrain is ‘along the pre-1967 lines, with land swaps’ which means nothing and is a fantastic way to avoid saying anything that could lead anywhere. One feels as if one is walking in circles. In my opinion, the US should stop playing to political agenda and get something moving.
The case is also moral. I have no problem with the idea of the Israeli state being where it is. There is an obvious and compelling historical – as well as religious – case for its location. Very few people would disagree with me. Therefore, does it not follow that the Palestinians have an equal right to a state in the area, having lived there for just as long? What makes Israelis more important than Palestinians? It would be possible to argue that the West’s long-term backing of Israel constitutes religious discrimination. The Palestinians deserve their country.
No matter what I write here, the US will veto a Palestinian state at the UN Security Council. Mahmoud Abbas has foreseen this and has already made plans to return to the General Assembly. The Assembly does not have the power to grant full statehood, but it can award the Palestinians the status of an ‘observer state’, on par with the Vatican. Judging by the reception Mr Abbas got yesterday, the Assembly is eager to further the Palestinian cause. Being an observer state would give the Palestinians more clout at any new negotiations with Israel, which can only be a good thing – providing they forgo their prerequisites before talks begin. Palestine is not about to spring onto the map, but with a little luck and a lot more judgement, a two state peace deal may be a tiny bit closer. Don’t hold your breath though.