November 29, UN Decides on Palestine
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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.
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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