Palestine, Statehood and the UN.
UNA Edinburgh has been monitoring the situation in Palestine/Israel and at the UN for some years. At each of the last 4 annual policy-making conferences of UNA-UK we have presented Statements and generated debate. Conference members have always strongly supported our calls for justice for the Palestinian people according to international law, UN Security Council Resolutions (including those vetoed by the US), and Geneva Conventions etc.
We strongly support the current moves by Palestine to seek recognition as a State (albeit still occupied) and as a member of the United Nations. The US will probably block any request at the Security Council for membership and statehood (and is lobbying all the other SC members hard not to vote in favour, so as to save the US from the embarrassment of using its veto again). We therefore encourage members and friends, and all who agree that peace cannot be attained unless it is founded on justice and law, to lobby our MPs, Foreign Secretary, MEPs, et al., to support the Palestinian case for statehood and resist US pressure.
If the request is blocked by a US veto in the Security Council, the Palestinian delegation is expected to request the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine’s status, from an ‘entity with permanent observer status’ at the UN, to recognition of Palestine as a ‘non-member state’, still with permanent observer status. (This is the position of the Vatican, and was the position of Switzerland until 2002). Again, we should continue to press our representatives to support (at least) this degree of recognition of Palestine as a state.
Recognition of Palestine as a state, by whichever route, will not be the ‘magic bullet’ that will quickly resolve this long-standing injustice; there will still need to be significant negotiations before all issues are resolved. But it will be a major step forward, and will significantly change the dynamics of negotiations, even if Palestine is still an occupied State. As Sir Jeremy Greenstock (Chairman, UNA UK) said this morning (Radio4, Today), the case can now be heard in a new court. As a State Palestine will also have access to (and obligations under) international treaties and other international bodies – including the International Criminal Court. I expect it will also affirm (eg UNSC 242, etc) an internationally recognised (current) border between Israel and Palestine, almost certainly that of 1967 before the June war.
The theme of the UN General Assembly this year is ‘The Role of Mediation in the Settlement of Disputes by Peaceful Means’. If you have been following the Statements made by national leaders at the current General Assembly (http://gadebate.un.org), this may not always be obvious!. Some good mediation (and new mediators) are certainly required to help resolve this issue.
Meanwhile, since any votes on this issue will not be made this week, but in the coming few weeks as the UNSC and UNGA meet in ‘normal’ sessions, there is still time – and urgency – for us to lobby our representatives, both in the UK and in Europe, to ensure that the UK does the right thing and supports Palestine statehood when these votes are taken.
Convenor, UNA Edinburgh Middle East Group