The Palestinian initiative this week is likely to result in a vote in the UN General Assembly which would have the effect of upgrading their status to that of a “non member observer state” taking it beyond its current old observer status and a position which has in the past been shared by countries like Japan, Switzerland and Bangladesh. A nine out of fifteen member Security Council vote will ensure the application is sent to the General Assembly to be ratified, provided two thirds of the 193 countries agree. However, a “no” vote from any one of the Permanent Member of the Council which includes the USA will mean that the application fails vetoing the Palestinian’s ultimate aim of becoming the UN’s 194th member state. The Palestinian application is obviously a move vehemently opposed by the Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and predictably endorsed by the US who has already announced their intention to veto the application irrespective of its wording.
Therefore, given the already loaded dice against the Palestinian application with the incessant dark shadow of the US’s vote, it should fall upon Britain, another of the Permanent Members to support the Palestinian initiative, thereby sending out a clear message that it is time to move on and make peace. Britain has a moral duty to support the move given its role in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1920. The process towards recognition of an independent Palestine is also an important and symbolic step towards the establishment of a dual state which ironically, is strongly supported by the USA. It is also a gesture which would in the words of former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, be the “best way” to restart peace negotiations which are currently sunk within a quick sand of dogmatism and short-sightedness. Furthermore, the World Bank, the UN, the EU and the IMF have all endorsed the Palestinians as “ready for security”.
What about a vote from Israel? Well they have all to gain and much to lose if they stand in the way of the application. Not only have they entered a phase of diplomatic isolation with the recent expulsion of its ambassador in Turkey, it must surely recognise the value in enhancing lucrative trading opportunities with a neighbour that has a growing economy. There is also the insatiable international appetite for a Palestinian statehood which Israel can ignore but entirely at the expense of its own security and international standing.
So the use of the UN is a smart tactical move by the Palestinians and probably a game changer. The case made by them for recognition as a state is strong. This week, at the United Nations, the British Government should be willing to support the recognition of Palestinian statehood as part of continuing steps to achieve a comprehensive two state solution.
But there also remains a heavy responsibility on the UK government and other members of the international community this week to work to ensure that any change in the level of Palestinian recognition is then followed by meaningful negotiations between the parties.