So the dust is beginning to settle on the UN vote to give a non-existent state the status of a state (if you get me). Maybe this is a good time to work out what is myth and what is reality in the new “peace paradigm” that the UN has created. Let’s make no mistake about this; things cannot remain the same, if only because the breakdown of the Oslo process from the nineties is now complete and probably irreversible. In this new reality, let’s list a few truths…
1. The 29th November UN General Assembly vote did not create a state of Palestine. For all the celebrations in Ramallah on Mr Abbas’ return, the UN cannot create a state, it can only recognise one that already exists. The Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of a State (December 1933), which predates the creation of the UN, states as its first article,
“The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”
The Palestinian Authority is a temporary administrative instrument, not a proper government; its population is not permanent as long as there is a claimed “right of return” to lands in the state of Israel; it has no properly defined borders; it does not and cannot enter into meaningful relations with other states, since the PA is itself only an arm of the PLO.
2. Building on the E1 area will not “cut a future Palestinian state in half”. Israel has had plans to build on the barren land between East Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim since the 1990s, but American pressure kept a firm lid on any thoughts of turning plans into bricks and mortar. Now the PA has broken the Oslo agreements with a resounding crack, Israel is freed to execute its long-standing building plans – which also include expansion in Pisgat Ze’ev in North jerusalem, a well-established and popular suburb within the security barrier.
As for splitting the West Bank in half, anyone who has driven from Jerusalem to Jericho knows that there is ample unpopulated land for roads, tunnels or whatever it takes to link Ramallah to Bethlehem if a Palestinian state ever becomes a reality. In fact, Israel has already begun making provision for road traffic to bypass Jerusalem on the Eastern side for Palestinians.
Furthermore, existing agreements do not stop either Israel or the PA from building on territory under their respective jurisdictions or that is known will belong to them under any final status arrangements. These areas include E1, Pisgat Ze’ev and many other places that Israel is or will soon be building on.
3. The status of the land areas under dispute has not changed one iota following the UN vote. The PA could not claim that Israel is occupying sovereign Palestinian land any more on November 29th than they could on November 28th, despite erecting border signs around the West Bank (see photo). The phrase “occupied Palestinian territories” is not written in a single document of all the agreements and negotiations that have taken place through the decades since 1967. Why not? Because both Israel and the PA are claimants to land that was previously occupied illegally by Jordan and before that was under British mandated rule following 500 years of Ottoman Turkish government. Accordingly, although Israel has a legitimate legal basis for its claims, the area known as “The West bank” and “Judea and Samaria” is under dispute, not occupation. The UN vote did not change that; only genuine negotiations will lead to an alteration in that status – unless, of course, Israel unilaterally assumes control over the West Bank and exercises sovereignty over the whole area!!
4. Threats by the PA to take Israel and/or its individual leaders to the International Criminal Court do not mean it will happen! The ICC is rightly independent of the UN and, irrespective of UN General Assembly votes, only has jurisdiction on behalf of actual, real states (Rome Statute of the ICC, article 12). Since the PA does not meet any of the normal parameters for defining a state (see above), the ICC has no obligation to exercise its jurisdiction on behalf of that entity. As it is supposed to be apolitical, the ICC could refuse all approaches by the PA. In fact, this already happened in April of this year, when the ICC Prosecutor refused to make the determination of whether the PA was a state or not.
The change of status voted on by the UN on November 29th changed nothing, yet changes everything! For anyone truly desiring peace, peace is still possible. for anyone desiring not peace but more conflict, that also is still feasible. What has changed is that both Israel and the PA have been released from their respective responsibilities and obligations under the Oslo Accords, Roadmap and Annapolis schemes – all of which have been shattered by the PA move in New York.
It is significant that Mahmoud Abbas opened his November 29th speech claiming that he was there because he “…believes in peace…” and spent the rest of his time denigrating and delegitimising Israel instead of advocating a negotiated two-state settlement. That is because he does not want a two-state settlement; he wants a one-state solution (Palestine) in place of the existing, UN member, democratic state of Israel. The grand ambitions of the PA are no more or less than new clothes for the emperor; everyone can see right through them but is not about to say so – especially if to do so would be to risk supporting Israel!