In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Palestine takes a great leap forward

Posted by seumasach on November 29, 2012


29th November, 2012

The Palestine’s bid for non-member observer status in the United Nations is certain to succeed. The requisite two-thirds support at today’s voting in the UNGA is a foregone conclusion.

The BRICS countries, Arab League, member countries of the non-aligned movement, and, curiously enough, a hefty chunk of European states are extending support. “We lost Europe” — the Israeli statement says it all. The point is, the flood gates are open and Washington and Tel Aviv are pretty much isolated.

In this tsunami of support, the salience is as to what it all means for the Palestinian cause. Certainly, Palestinians are scoring a huge symbolic victory. But it is much more than that. They can now take part in the UN GA debates and get their harrowing tale heard.
Second, the prospects of joining the UN agencies brighten, which qualifies Palestine to various kinds of aid from the world body. This is yet another nail in the coffin of israel’s inhuman blockade of Gaza.
Equally, the UN acceptance of Palestine even as a non-momber observer implies a big recognition of the pre-1967 boundary, since the UN is after all the overarching world body which is the source of authority on international law.
However, what terrifies Israel most is that the Palestinians may secure membership of the International Criminal Court [ICC], which, if it happens, means that the horrendous israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people may become accountable.
There could be dire consequences for Israel and its political and military leaders if that happens. More important, the impunity with which Israel has deployed its military might against the hapless civilian communities in Palestine won’t be there anymore, which in turn means Tel Aviv will have to think twice before committing actions that could be construed as war crimes in future.
In sum, Israel’s military superiority will become further irrelevant. Of course, there has been a lot of pressure on the chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas from the West to give in to a pre-condition that he won’t press a request for ICC membership. In all probability he won’t apply for ICC membership — not yet, at least — but he wouldn’t give any firm assurance, nonetheless.
Abbas reached a nadir lately in his controversial political career, as a bogeyman of the West, reduced to the role of a bystander while Hamas took on Israeli military recently and came out with its prestige at an all-time high level among the Palestinians. Abbas is now back on the centre stage with the UN GA move, but then, all other Palestinian groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad have now backed the UN bid and he has lost the monopoly over it in political terms.
How will Israel and US react? Israel has threatened the Palestinians with dire consequences. But then, Israelis are a notoriously pragmatic lot and they’d have sized up by now that the Palestinian bid is inexorably moving forward and nothing can frustrate it.
Their stance could be changing; they now claim they’d rather like to see how the Palestinians use their new UN status. They no more threaten sanctions or abrogation of the Oslo Accords.
What goes on in Barack Obama’s mind is much more difficult to divine. Indeed, the Obama administration cannot afford to be seen wanting in holding the israeli hands when the Palestinians climb the heights on the UN forum. But, beyond that, what can the US do?
The fact that the Europeans have broken loose and are voting for the Palestinian cause drives home that the US is facing serious isolation. Indeed, the US’ image takes a further beating in the Middle East.
The big question is whether the Obama administration will turn this moment of defeat and despair into a window of opportunity to turn the screw on Israel and force it to come to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. The chances are, frankly speaking, very slim.
On the other hand, the reality staring at the face also cannot be ignored, namely, that the US needs a comprehensive rethink of its Middle East strategy. The region has changed phenomenally and the US cannot remain hooked to the old paradigm.
The Hamas which spearheads the Palestinian cause today continues to underscore that resistance is the only path ahead. The Palestinian PM Ismail Haniyeh harped on this in an interview this week. But is this the final take? Again, what is it that the US can offer?
The coming week is going to focus attention on the power struggle within Hamas. The chairman of the Hamas politburo Khaled Meshaal is due to pay his first-ever visit to Gaza on Wednesday. The occasion is the 25th anniversary of Hamas.
Interestingly, Turkish PM Recep Erdogan is also traveling to Gaza on Wednesday. What emerges is a determined effort by Turkey (and Meshaal) to whittle down Iran’s influence on Hamas. Qatar is hovering in the background willing to bankroll the Turkish efforts. The US is watching the outcome.
Whereas, Iran can be trusted to do all it can to counter the regional ambitions of Turkey (and Qatar). As a perceptive regional commentator pointed out, Iran’s clout is formidable with the resistance groups in Lebanon and Gaza and if Erdogan pushes the envelope, he may come to realize that that the Hamas he and the emir of Qatar hope to control is not actually the Hamas which controls Gaza.

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