Much can be speculated but what is certain is that with the anticipated Palestinian support of at least 115, and up to as much as 150, member states of the UN, the USA and Israel are very much in isolation in their opposition.
In so fervently opposing the potential Palestinian bid for non-member state status at the UN, the United States administration has made a substantial error in judgement. Not only does their opposition perpetuate the criminally vulgar apathy that the world, and the US in particular, has shown Palestine since the conception of Israel in 1948, but it further, and more significantly, embodies a diplomatic mistake that has the capacity to undermine much of American foreign policy rhetoric.
Given the impasse in Israel-Palestine peace negotiations since 2010, the Palestinian bid for independence and their pursuit of a two-state solution has effectively been left in their own hands. It was therefore not a surprise when last year Mahmoud Abbas submitted his application for Palestinian statehood and membership to the UN. When the subsequent Security Council vote produced unfavourable results for Palestine, following immense diplomatic pressure and persuasion from the US, the Palestinian Authority decided that the best option would be to bypass the Security Council and apply for non-member state status via the UN General Assembly. Addressing the General Assembly on the 27th September, Abbas stated “We have begun intensive consultations with various regional organizations and member states aimed at having the General Assembly adopt a resolution considering the state of Palestine as a non-member state of the United Nations”. With Palestinian hopes of being a recognised state, but not a member, come hopes of taking Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The future of Palestine looks, for the first time in recent memory, somewhat hopeful; at least 115 member states of the UN are expected to vote in favour of recognising Palestine on pre-1967 ceasefire line borders should a bid be submitted – making Palestine a non-member state. Why then, and on what basis, is the US seemingly so determined to ensure otherwise?
The answer? ‘Palestinian statehood can only be achieved via direct negotiation with the Israelis’, or so the official rhetoric goes. What can be inferred is that the US is seeking to protect its long-time ally and the largest recipient of US aid since World War Two; undoubtedly, Israel needs financial and military assistance to keep the Lebanese Shiite threat of Hezbollah at bay, yet such heavy investment suggests US protection against all Israeli enemies. In this case, the US may fear the potential ruling the ICC may give on Israeli occupation. Much can be speculated but what is certain is that with the anticipated Palestinian support of at least 115, and up to as much as 150, member states of the UN, the USA and Israel are very much in isolation in their opposition.
The isolation of the US, combined with the zealous and ardent nature of their opposition, is the fundamental point in why this particular US dialogue has the capability to undermine much of America’s foreign policy authority. With the exception of the Cold War, the US has been championing democracy from as far back as the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Why then does the insistence placed by the US on democracy, even today in the Arab Spring countries and Afghanistan, not apply when extrapolated to supranational governance? The United States of America must be labelled as a global dictator within the realms of international relations; the financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority following their pursuit of UN membership and the repudiation of all American UNESCO funding in 2011 following Palestine’s admission must be seen as evidence of repression. Financial sanctions seem a distinctly puzzling consequence of a country’s fight for liberation and supports the assertion that the US is not primarily concerned with, as the administration claim, the potential effect on the peace process. Moreover, the presence of the US in other countries is discredited. Citizens of countries in the Middle-East and North Africa will begin to question whether democracy is really the agenda for the United States and suddenly the old adage referring to the conflation of terrorists and freedom fighters becomes a reality.
In any case, surely the time has come for the Israel-Palestine peace process to occur without the presence of the USA and Russia. Neither country can really be seen as a moral authority; America is a country still not even 50 years into the outlaw of racism and segregation. How long can the US continue to support, in Israel, a country that has shown and continues to show such blatant disregard for international law? The time has come for the US and Russia to step down and allow the UN to fulfil the role of global governance that the institution was created for. The US administration must end the stubborn outlook with which they approach the majority of international issues and realise the democratic nature of multilateralism. The words of Kofi Annan resonate most deeply: “The United Nations is most useful to all its members, including the United States, when it is united and works as a source of collective action”.
Photo credit: No Lands Too Foreign