Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN
The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade Palestine to a non-member observer state.
The vote in the UN was 138 to 9, with 41 countries abstaining in favor of awarding the status of a non-member state. Though the vote was reportedly symbolic, it created discomfort in Israel and the U.S. The question is why, it’s only symbolic. The Palestinians and many of their supporters say it’s a step of progress in the right direction, closer to total statehood for the Palestinians.
In the meantime, the U.S. and Israel who led the effort to defeat the measure declared that a state will require further steps, a prospect the US and Israel have sworn to oppose. Even though the vote in the U.N. was overwhelmingly to recognize the Palestinian state, it appears that it’s the only place that the U.S. does not recognize the “majority-rule” vote. It was long sought by the Palestinians and an embarrassing diplomatic defeat for the United States and Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rebuked the United Nations General Assembly’s vote calling it an ‘unfortunate and counterproductive’ move that further obstructs the path to a peaceful agreement between Palestine and Israel. She also stated, “We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace they both deserve: two states for two people with a sovereign, viable independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.
However, the Palestinians see it differently. Its President Mahmoud Abbas said, “We now have a state; the world has said loudly, `Yes to the state of Palestine’.” For a recognized Palestinian state will indeed give Israel a responsible partner with international backing – one that will represent the entire Palestinian people. The status change by the UN does have deep significance for all concerned.
Israel has decided to retaliate and at present it has the power to do so. It has withheld much needed funds from the Palestinians and has declared that it would begin to expand settlement building after it had ceased to do so sometime ago to give peace a chance. Even the U.S. and its pro-European allies – including England and France – have opposed the plan to rebuild settlements.
Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Power cedes nothing without demand.” If the Palestinians do not demand equality (statehood), they will get nothing regardless of negotiations with power (Israel); they will forever be second-class citizens.
Ultimately, the cause of the Palestinian people is more than UN recognition. For many of them things will not change without a land of their own.