In the neverending propaganda war that swirls around Israel and Palestine, it’s sometimes difficult to get clear, concise information. Simple events that seem clear-cut suddenly take on nuance when taking into consideration the gravity of Israel’s national security and the importance of treating Palestinians with dignity. It is a tricky balance that often fails and results in air strikes, rockets, bombs and rubble. Yet an under-the-radar project that has been in the works for a while is revealing itself as a real force within the region.
First, it is imperative that we understand where Palestine stands within the international community. Here’s the breakdown: currently 112 countries around the globe officially recognize Palestine as a state. Most of Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, South America and Asia are included in the list. The heavy hitters, such as North America and the E.U. do not officially recognize Palestinian Statehood, but do have offices in Ramallah and conduct official business with representatives from the region.
When it comes to organizations, Palestine is seen as a state in 11 official organizations such as the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the Arab League, the Union for the Mediterranean and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
However, when it comes to the organizations with particular international gravitas, Palestine is not recognized as a state but merely as a observer. The United Nations, UNESCO, World Health Organization, World Tourism Organization, Universal Postal Union, International Telecommunication Union and World Intellectual Property Organization do not officially recognize the State of Palestine. But this may be about to change.
The Palestinian National Authority, which oversees the West Bank and the Gaza strip, has been quietly and methodically building support for a new resolution. In September, the U.N. may face a vote that would bring the State of Palestine officially into the U.N. fold. The State would encompass the Gaza Strip, The West Bank and East Jerusalem. This possibility is fairly devastating for Israel because they would be officially be occupying land that belongs to another member of the U.N.
Because of this, Israel has been under massive pressure to make an offer to Palestine. It has reached out the the U.S., but officially there has been no confirmation of any help or conference put into place. In other words, Israel might be on its own here. There has been talk about a complete removal of the settlements as an acceptable olive branch. However, settlements are seen to many Israelis as their rightful land, so to give them up would be almost to forsake what the country of Israel means and stands for. And while the settlements have been condemned by every country in the world (including the United States), many inside the Israeli government see these outposts as strategic zones that would be devastating to lose.
Still, with the amount of support that Palestine has generated, its leaders have given way to a certain level of tonal authority. Nabil Sha’ath, who leads the foreign affairs department of Fatah (which falls under the PNA) has been quoted as saying, “We want to generate pressure on Israel to make it feel isolated and help it understand that there can be no talks without a stop to settlements. Without that, our goal is membership in the United Nations General Assembly in September.” He also discussed a trump card of dissolving the entire PNA and cutting all responsibilities and talks with Tel Aviv. This would leave Israel solely responsible for the occupation.
Yigor Palmore, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said that Israel was doing everything that it could to make sure the vote did not take place. Israel also warned of retaliatory measures against Palestine for provoking such actions. Israel’s stance is that Palestinian Statehood can only be reached through talks and using the U.N. as a backdoor method shows little concern for the peace process.
But what about vetoes? Does Israel really have anything to be worried about? Well, actually, there are no vetoes allowed in the General Assembly, unlike the Security Council, where most of the veto power comes into play. With official support for Palestine from 112 countries, and most of those expected to vote “yes,” it looks like official Palestinian statehood could actually be closer than most might think.
It will be interesting to watch what happens in the coming months leading up to the vote. Will Israel actually get the resolution struck down? Will they offer to stop settlements or renegotiate boundries? Right now that seems unlikely as just as recently as Friday evening, air strikes fell in Gaza, killing three members of Hamas. However, it looks like, for now, Palestinian leaders have backed the State of Israel into a corner. If the PNA was dissolved and Palestine forced Israel to bare the responsibility of occupation, there would almost certainly be a humanitarian disaster. If Palestine wins U.N. recognition of statehood, then there will most likely be reprisals for the settlements that are currently occupying land that may very well be recognized as an independent country. Regardless of where you stand on the debate and the tactics deployed by either side, the diplomatic two-step has rarely had such monumental outcomes. As events unfold, we will keep you updated.