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The Cross of Bethlehem

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November 29, UN Decides on Palestine

"The General Assembly, Having met in special session at the request of the mandatory Power to constitute and instruct a Special Committee to prepare for the consideration of the question of the future Government of Palestine at the second regular session..."
Opening text from UN General Assembly Resolution 181 November 29, 1947

 

 

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We are back in 1947! I claimed in September on the occasion of the Jewish New Year. Israel’s candidate for the USA Presidency—Mitt Romney—said during a private fundraiser a few days before that “… the Middle East Peace Process was likely to remain an unsolved problem.” This private message was soon afterwards leaked to mainstream media. He was right, instead of facing a year of renewal and prosperity, Israel has been kicked back to 1947, the year the UN issued Resolution 181, known as the UN Partition Plan of Palestine. In 2012, the Palestinian Authority is bidding to be recognized as an observer state at the UN General Assembly. The vote may take place on November 29, the same day the historic 1947 vote took place.

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu

UN 181

UN Partition Plan For Palestine
Resolution 181, November 29, 1947

Palestine in the UN

On September 23, 2011, at the 66th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas—speaking for the Palestinian people—asked the UN member states to accept Palestine as an equal member of this exclusive club. Israel blocked the move at the Security Council level; yet, a few days later, on October 31, UNESCO granted Palestine full membership. On September 25, 2012, the General Debate of the 67th UN General Assembly began, and Abbas asked to upgrade the status of Palestine to the one of observer at the UN, the same status held by the Holy See, Vatican City. This will upgrade Palestine’s status from Occupied Territory to Occupied Country, opening new options for a legal battle against the Israeli occupation. As analyzed in UN General Assembly: Egypt hits Israel, if refused even this partial recognition, Abbas may dismantle the Palestinian Authority. He performed the first step-the formal speech-and now is about to request a vote on the issue from the General Assembly, which is to gather on the Palestinian issue on November 29 and 30. Formally, the UN agenda has been set as:
1. Question of Palestine: report of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (A/67/35) and report of the Secretary-General
2. The situation in the Middle East: reports of the Secretary-General (A/67/342).
If Abbas request is accepted, the vote will be added and Palestine may become a formal Observer Country.

Netanyahu Entrapped

For Netanyahu and Israel, the timing of the Palestinian move couldn't be worse. At first sight, the situation looks more favorable towards Israel than last year. After all, Palestine asked then for full UN membership, while now it pursues a lesser status. Yet, Israel is about to conduct elections on January 22, 2013. Netanyahu faces no serious opposition, but he got entrapped between Palestine and Iran.

In the last year, early elections were one of the main political topics in Israel. Following dramatic events, which included a failed coalition with Kadima and bogus early elections in September, the elections were set for January. This was the latest possible date for Netanyahu, who seeks to strengthen his government. The actual coalition is not strong enough for his goals; he seeks to strengthen the Likud position in the next Knesset bygaining the most senior ministries, namely Defense and Foreign Affairs, which are held now by other parties. If he achieves that, it will be much easier for him to conduct a war against Iran. The best testimony of his intent was the brutally belligerent speech he delivered in September at the UN General Assembly. Despite his verbal violence, he didn’t give the order to attack Iran because, right now, he cannot give such an order to the IDF. To win a war against Iran, Netanyahu needs American military and diplomatic help; the IDF can initiate a war with Iran, but it is unable to finish it properly. However, President Obama won’t allow such an attack before the upcoming presidential elections in the USA; the current administration is unfriendly towards Netanyahu. Thus, Netanyahu delayed war with Iran. Yet, Israel and the USA agree that by mid-2013 Iran’s nuclear industry will be well established and safe from conventional attacks. This is Netanyahu’s deadline. The elections in January provide a good opportunity for him to follow his plans.

The Palestinian bid changed the main topic in Israel. Instead of comfy elections’ propaganda on a possible war with Iran, Israel must confront the Palestinian issue. Netanyahu faces strong opposition on this, including from his new partner Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. This is especially delicate since the two announced a few days ago that Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, their respective parties, will run together in a unified list. Netanyahu, Lieberman, and eventually all possible partners of the next government compete now one against the other in a game called "Who is the fiercest against Palestine." The several parties holding primaries in late November have no choice but to center on the bid, since this is also the planned date for the UN vote. In other words, Israel has been forced to play in favor of the Palestinians; the extreme words used by Israeli politicians in following weeks will play in the UN in favor of Palestine.

Iran decided the timing of the elections; Palestine imposed their main topic.

Countries in Green Recognize Palestine

Countries in Green Recognize Palestine | They total over 80% of human population

 

Israel Reacts

Following the Palestinian announcement of its intentions, Israel is warning that this may lead to a new Intifada or the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. In its publications, Israel doesn’t mention the fact that the Palestinians themselves announced that they may dismantle the PA out of their own will if the move fails. Of all possible scenarios, those in which Israel plays with the existence of the PA, are the easiest to turn around against Israel itself.

An option favored by Lieberman is the declaration of Abbas as irrelevant, as it was done with Arafat, before his murder. If that happens, Hamas will remind everybody that Mahmoud Abbas is holding his position as President of the Palestinian Authority illegally. Elected to serve until January 9, 2009, Mr. Abbas unilaterally extended his term as president for another year and continues in office years after that deadline expired. The day after Israel bans Abbas, Palestinian elected Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, will probably declare Israel as irrelevant, and the political center of the now semi-independent Palestinian Authority will move to Gaza.

Moreover, Israel is planning punishments against the PA, including a significant expansion of West Bank settlements and halting tax transfers to the PA. Both methods were used extensively in the past. Personal punishments of Palestinian officers are also planned; these include the revocation of their VIP passes that allow them to pass through IDF security checks in the West Bank.

Israel is also expanding its diplomatic activity. On October 24, Lieberman and Netanyahu met with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and warned her that the PA's UN bid would be a “game-changing move” that would spark unilateral Israeli measures in response. Moreover, Israel plans to lobby most of the UN’s 193 members, especially those it has a good chance to influence. Yet, Palestine has a reasonable chance to beat Israel at the UN General Assembly.

History in the Make

Palestine is also conducting a diplomatic offensive. It wants to win recognition by a landslide similar to the one it got last year in the UNESCO vote. Its task is simpler than the Israeli one; the map above shows the 130 countries that have already recognized the State of Palestine. Their combined populations account for over 80% of humans on the planet. Palestinians aim at getting at least 160 votes out of the 193 UN voting members.

History folds in odd ways; this year, on the exact anniversary of the UN Resolution 181, the same body may vote on its actual implementation, sixty-five years after the original decision. The date will become a symbol of Justice in the make. Yet, can Israel compensate Palestine for the robbed time?

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