Dec 18 2014

Diplomacy, Timing and Palestine

Published by at 11:51 am under Articles,Palestinian politics


By Daoud Kuttab

Time is one of the most crucial elements of effective diplomacy.

A diplomatic act can have disastrous consequences if executed at the wrong time, but can be successful if the timing is correct.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Malki was quoted Tuesday as saying Palestinians are willing to postpone submitting a resolution to the UN Security Council Wednesday for a few days, though no later than the end of the month.

The resolution is to be submitted by the Arab state currently holding a seat at the Security Council, Jordan. It will call for a time a two-year limit within which the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands will end.

The Palestinian tactic is to combine Jordan’s presence at the Security Council in 2014 with the changes expected in the council in 2015.

The chances of a resolution for Palestinian statehood gaining nine positive votes in 2015 are better because a number of new countries that will become members recognised Palestine or had their parliaments (such as Spain) recognize the state of Palestine.

The internal workings of the UN allow for a draft resolution to be submitted and discussed at the council, but the text to be voted on is the one that will be submitted in blue.

Gaining nine votes will force reluctant permanent members like the US to take a decisive decision.

In the past, a US veto was almost automatic. But recently, Israeli officials stated that they are worried that the veto is not a sure thing.

Not only are Washington and Tel Aviv at loggerheads on a variety of issues, but the US is careful not to cause damage to its current anti-Islamic State Arab coalition by voting against a resolution on Palestine.

Pushing for a vote on a time ceiling at the UN Security Council has forced more movement in European and American capitals than in years past.

The EU countries, especially France are planning to suggest their own resolution and tough bargaining is going on in Brussels to try to reach an acceptable text that will allow Palestinians to forgo their Security Council and thus the possibility of a US veto.

France has also been active trying to suggest an international conference that will tackle directly the issues at hand. A French-Palestinian merged resolution is also a possibility.

Palestinians have other options if the US does carry out the threat made this week by Secretary of State John Kerry that it will veto the Security Council resolution.

The Palestinian leadership said it is ready to apply for full membership to some 520 UN and international bodies, including the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The latter could eventually investigate Israeli war crimes in Palestine.

While Palestinians are trying to fine tune the best timing to use Jordan’s membership and, at the same time, avoid the current setup where the nine votes are elusive, a different timing issue exists on the Israeli side.

The decision to dissolve the Israeli Knesset and to hold early elections in Marchmeans that it will be difficult to obtain any major decision from the caretaker Israeli government.

The Palestinian resolution to set a two-year time limit means that no specific decision is required at the current time of Israel.

However, if such a resolution passes in the Security Council, this will leave its mark on the Israeli elections.

A positive vote at the Security Council on Palestinian statehood will no doubt be seen cold be seen as a setback to Netanyahu and his right wing camp.

Israelis will likely blame their current prime minister who has failed to mend relations with Washington and President Barack Obama, and will likely vote accordingly. Some say the opposite that it will embolden Israelis and that they will rally behind Netanyahu.

At the same time, if the US does carry out its threat to veto the Security Council resolution, this will be seen as a vindication of Netanyahu’s tough tactics and his often repeated claim that he knows how to manage Israel’s American ally.

In June 1967, Israeli troops occupied Palestinian and Arab lands in a war that lasted only six days. At the time, the UN Security Council declared the “inadmissibility of acquisition of land by war”.

Forty seven years later, the same UN body is scheduled to discuss and vote on a resolution putting a two-year time frame for when Israel will exit the occupied territory.

It is high time that this occupation and the ugliness of the accompanying colonial settlement enterprise be reversed.

It is time to vote for peace and justice in Palestine.

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