Tonight I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend a phenomenal lecture, put on by Tel Aviv University Hillel, about the upcoming United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood that will be taking place in just 6 short days. At first I was slightly reluctant to attend the lecture because I was very worried that it would be overwhelmingly one sided. From personal experience I have found that is is very detrimental to discuss and teach heavily political topics by presenting just one side. In order to get a full picture you must look at any issue from the points of view of each side, and ONLY then can a person truly make an informed opinion.
First of all, I am so incredibly happy to report that the lecture was not only one of the most objective I have ever attended, but everything was backed up by reports and facts, and even a little humor was used to better explain certain situations. It was not Pro Israel or Pro Palestine, but looked at the possible implications of going through the UN to obtain statehood, and the pro's and con's of the vote on each side of the conflict.
Firstly, it is important to note that this conflict between Palestinians and Israelis has been going for what seems like forever. Throughout history there has been tension and conflict between the Jews and the Arabs, but for all intents and purposes of this post, I am strictly talking about the recent historical conflict of the Jews and Palestinians dating from 1948 when the Israeli state was born to the present. It is also important to note that, as of now, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is a recognized entity by the United Nations, and they currently hold observer status (just some good background information).
Because I don't want to make this a 50 page post I won't go into all of the specifics, but will merely touch upon points I found to be extremely informative and interesting. Since the 1970's the Palestinians and the Jews have been trying (unsuccessfully I might add) to use the art of negotiation to come up with a desired solution to the current crises of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Land trade has taken place, peace talks, demilitarization, and so on, but nothing has proved a successful solution. The big issue now is that Mahmoud Abbas (the Palestinian leader) has been talking about taking the issue from the negotiation table straight to the United Nations.
Now, there are three things the Palestinians can do in terms of their quest for "statehood". The first thing, and probably least desirable politically, would be to take the matter straight to the general assembly. They would hands down win this vote (since the muslim states coupled with the communist states have a clear cut majority in the UN), however, all this would do would be to boost the ego of the Palestinians. It still would not change the current situation. In fact, they are already recognized as an independent entity in the UN, so all this vote would do is reaffirm that. The second option would be to vote to increase their status in the UN. Right now they are recognized observes, but if they win a 2/3 majority vote on this second option, they would be a recognized entity, would not be a recognized country at this point, but would be able to take countries to the International courts and so on without going through a middle man. This is not the most desirable option for them but it does give them more legitimacy. The third option, and the one that is supposedly the most desirable, is to take the vote to the security council, get it passed there, then it would go to the general assembly (where it would pass no question), and then they would have full state establishment.
There is, however, 2 very large problems with this plan... First of all, though this third option is the most desirable, barring hell freezing over, it will never pass the security council. Why? if even one of the super powers exercises their veto power, JUST ONE, the vote is knocked out and they would have to resort to option 2 or 1. America has already stated that they will be using this veto, however, with the Obama administration, who are no friends to Israel, there is a lingering possibility that they won't exercise their veto. In that case, it is almost 95% that either China or Russia would exercise their veto, because even though they are more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, legitimizing a Palestinian state would pave the way for the Tibetans and Chechens to follow in the Palestinian footsteps, and if China and Russia vote for Palestinians how can they not for either the Tibetans or Chechens? It is all very political, but be that as it may, the vote won't pass in the security council.
So what does this all mean for either side? Well for one, even the Israelis and Jews (like myself) who are for a two state solution, are not for it being done in this way. If the UN legitimizes a Palestinian state without negotiations, it does nothing to further the peace process and it runs the risk of a 3rd Intifada taking place. I personally feel that negotiations are the only way to establish a state peacefully and realistically (if only it was as easily done as said). Many people in the international community, including lawyers for the Palestinians, have expressed that this is not the way to go about attaining statehood, and it could actually be more of a problem for the Palestinians than not. In terms of detriment for the Palestinians, once a state is created, it is very possible that it will be created under a Hamas government, and Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization. They are expecting to lose major funding, and there will be major issues with the right of return for refugees living in Jordan, Tunisia, and other Arab nations. Also, there is the problem of how to declare a state the is not only discontiguous, but ruled by two different parties. The Gaza strip is controlled by Hamas and is completely separated from the Fatah controlled West Bank. How can you have a state that is separated by another sate? Do you build bridges? Tunnels? Or does legitimizing a state within another state render the other state occupied land? There are so many obstacles that have to be addressed before any talks of dual statehood can successfully move forward.
There is tremendous pressure from all over the world on this issue, and it is impossible to know the outcome until it is upon us in just a few days. In recent polls however, taken by Palestinians in the territories, over 60% do not support this vote in the UN and are more concerned with living their day to day life. Many Palestinians currently residing in East Jerusalem have also stated that they would rather move to West Jerusalem then live in a Palestinian controlled East Jerusalem. They foresee major problems arising from this UN vote, and most of them don't feel it will be a successful venture anyways. Plenty of Palestinians see this as Abba's way to create a legacy for himself before he is voted out of office democratically, or thrown out of office in revolt. It seems clear that this vote does not reflect the wants and desires of most of the citizens of Palestine.
To conclude, I can only say that, no matter what the outcome of the UN vote is, I pray both sides remain peaceful and committed to working together to solve this overwhelmingly difficult and sensitive conflict. History dictates that in these situations, where tempers and frustrations are high, many many problems arise, and I would be insane to think that they won't in this situation, but I would have very little if I didn't cling, realistically or unrealistically, to my hope for peace. I pray for a successful two state solution in the foreseeable future, and will work hard to try and help the process along.
Until we meet again <3,