2017 – Year of Destiny?

2017-1It has come to my attention just how many important anniversaries and special events are happening in 2017.

In Israel, the new year begins in the Autumn of 2016, so there’s a overlap time-period of 2016/2017 that has so many important anniversaries of political and religious events. Can this all be pure coincidence without any meaning? Or is it the start of something new? I wonder! Continue reading

Palestinian bid for Statehood – what will it mean?

The Palestinian Authority will formally submit its bid for full membership in the United Nations on September 20. This follows consultations in July and at least four rounds of negotiations between President Shimon Peres of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestine Authority.

The Palestinian membership bid will go first to the Security Council and is expected to receive firm majority support. The leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had previously announced that mass marches would be held in the West Bank that day in support of UN recognition.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office called the UN bid “expected but regrettable,” adding that it seems to indicate Abbas has decided to avoid direct negotiations with Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes only direct negotiations, rather than unilateral decisions, can advance the peace process.

The Arab “star” seems to be in the ascendancy with Middle East events leading towards a multi-national alliance, and next month, Arab members will be at helm of UN bodies with Lebanon holding the rotating presidency of the Security Council, and Qatar as chairman of the General Assembly.

Divided Opinions

President Mahmoud Abbas’ attempt to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations, despite U.S. and Israeli opposition, signals a bolder approach. But Palestinians are divided on the merits of the diplomatic offensive.

In the West Bank, Abbas’ Fatah movement bills it as a turning point in the Palestinian struggle, while in Gaza, a politician from rival Islamist Hamas dismissed it as hot air. Reconciliation between Abbas’ West Bank administration and Hamas in Gaza is seen as vital for mobilizing popular support behind the September initiative and, more broadly, any new Palestinian strategy.

Israel is wary. The Palestinians will likely emerge from September’s General Assembly meeting with a U.N. status upgrade that will give them access to dozens of U.N. agencies. But talk in Israel of a looming “diplomatic tsunami” has subsided.

Abbas’ Plan A — to secure full U.N. membership for Palestine — is destined to fail. The United States, which has veto power in the Security Council, is expected to oppose a move viewed in Washington as unhelpful to its Middle East diplomacy.

Plan B, as outlined by Palestinian officials, is to ask the General Assembly to upgrade Palestine to a non-member state from its current status as an observer. That would not need Security Council approval and elevate the Palestinians’ U.N. status to that of the Vatican. This present move is largely of symbolic value and George Giacaman, a political scientist at Birzeit University in the West Bank comments: “If the Palestinian Authority has a plan for after September, it hasn’t announced it.”

But it will produce some tangible results, giving the Palestinians access to U.N. agencies and potentially allowing them direct recourse to the International Criminal Court, where they could pursue cases against Israel.

Failed Peace Talks

In the July 11th meeting to consider the issues involved, the Quartet (EU, US, Russia, UN) could not even issue a joint statement afterward, so big is the gap between the parties.

At a press conference prior to the Quartet, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded uneasy at the prospect of the UN vote on Palestinian independence, in the absence of a political settlement. She said that the right path to follow was that of a negotiated peace agreement leading to independence. “What we strongly advocate is a return to negotiations, because a resolution, a statement, an assertion is not an agreement”.

But a return to talks (as we all suspected) achieved nothing.

Now, at the 66th UN General Assembly, opening on 13 September, the request for recognition of a Palestinian state will test loyalties and political policies on every side.

In the EU ten states are sceptical, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. Britain is likely to abstain, along with the US. Other EU member states more supportive of the Palestinian approach, including France, Spain, Ireland, Sweden and Portugal.

Unity is more important?

Europe is very keen to avoid the appearance of disunity, given the recent instability over the Euro. A less ambitious request by the Palestinians could make it easier for the 27 EU members to reach a compromise. For example, the Palestinians could seek a status similar to the Vatican’s permanent observer status, or adopt the solution of the World Bank and IMF, which consider Palestine “ready for independence,” or make recognition of the state of Palestine contingent on a resumption of the peace talks.

Meeting in Council, on 18 July, the EU’s foreign ministers urged the Israelis and Palestinians to “show the highest sense of responsibility and to resume direct and substantive talks,” read their conclusions. United in their conviction of the need to rekindle the peace process and to move towards a “two-state solution,” the 27 ministers abstained from mentioning the planned request for recognition of the Palestinian state at the 66th United Nations General Assembly because “such recognition may interfere strongly with the Union’s capacity to speak with a single voice”.

Palestinians and the U.N.

For years, the two sides have been urged to reach a negotiated solution — President Obama called for a peace deal by September — but the consequences of stalemate could be profoundly damaging for all involved.

Any UN agreement would be in name only. After the initial exhilaration, Palestinians would be even more alienated, while extremists would try to exploit that disaffection.

The best way is indeed serious negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, but they are not talking.  All share blame for the stalemate. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has used any excuse he can find (regional turmoil, the weakness of his coalition government) to avoid negotiations. He has resisted President Obama’s prodding because the President’s call for a return to the 1967 borders was clearly unacceptable and unworkable.

And Arab leaders haven’t given the Israelis any incentive to compromise. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, seemed to give up on diplomacy when Mr. Obama could not deliver a promised settlement freeze. We see no sign that he has thought even one step beyond the U.N. vote.


With the September deadline approaching, the Obama administration is back in the business of incremental diplomacy. The White House is working with Israel and the Quartet on a statement setting out parameters for negotiations but as long as the deal is exactly as before (a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps) there will be no forward movement. As we have already seen, Europe is more interested in appearing to speak and act as one, than in achieving a workable solution.

With the September General Assembly drawing closer, what will happen next is anybody’s guess. But the consequences could be grave.

Nabil Abu Rudeima, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “What is happening across the Arab world has changed everything, there is even a Jewish Spring happening now. It is time for the United States to accept the idea [of a UN-approved Palestinian state]. It would be embarrassing for them if they do not. As long as Israel’s settlement activities continue and as long as Israel refuses to accept the 1967 borders, after 60 years of occupation we have no other choice but to turn to the international community. We are not declaring war. We are applying to the United Nations.”

And if the United Nations refuse to act – what then is the alternative?

Read More: BBC News Question & Answer with Diagrams

New International Peace Plan for Israel

The “Mideast Quartet” is to present an international Peace Plan in a last-minute effort to stop the Palestinians from seeking unilateral recognition at the United Nations in September. The Quartet’s envoys – representing the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia – are planning to present a new international peace plan at a summit in Washington on July 11, based on US. President Barack Obama’s Mideast speech on May 19.

LINK:  What Obama did to Israel See here “What Obama did to Israel” and what it will mean for Israel (Washington Post article).

The summit will be taking place at a very critical time – only four days before the appointed date that the Palestinians set to officially appeal to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and to send him Palestine’s request for full membership at the UN.

The Palestinians have said they are prepared to consider the peace plan, but the political adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas said the leadership are preparing the text of the declaration that will presented to the UN in September, should talks not go ahead.

It will include, he said, references to Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state, and UN resolutions 242 and 194 on the return of Palestinian refugees and establishment of a state based on territories prior to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.

(click the link above to find out how this will affect Israel).

The Proposal
The Palestinian leadership formally decided to seek UN recognition in September of a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Palestinian officials plan to ask the United Nations to recognise an independent Palestinian state within 1967 borders. The idea is strongly opposed by Israel and to some extent, the United States.

What are the Palestinians asking for?

The Palestinians, as represented by the Palestinian Authority, have long sought to establish an independent, sovereign state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

In 1988, the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, unilaterally declared the establishment of a state. This won recognition from about 100 countries, mainly Arab, Communist and non-aligned states – several of them in Latin America. Recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state by the UN would have greater impact as it is the overarching international body and a source of authority on international law.

For years, the Palestinians have been collecting recognition of a state of Palestine from individual countries and so far 112 nations have done so, mostly in the developing world. The Palestinians predict they will have 135 recognitions by September – more than two-thirds of the 192 U.N. member states.

Their bid at the United Nations would be a more dramatic step: seeking some sort of official recognition by the world body as a nation defined by the 1967 borders.

Late last year, Palestinian officials began pursuing a new diplomatic strategy: asking individual countries to recognise a Palestinian state within 1967 borders.

Now they want the UN to do the same. This would entitle them to full member state representation at the UN, where the Palestine Liberation Organisation currently has only observer status.

It could also have political implications allowing Palestinians greater access to international courts where they could possibly launch legal action to challenge the occupation of territory by Israel.

What is the process?

The 15-member UN Security Council needs to recommend statehood to the General Assembly. If it does, then a vote on membership by its 192 members could take place on 20 September. Approval requires a two-thirds majority – or 128 votes. Currently 116 countries are said to recognise Palestine but the Palestinians hope they would gain the support of up to 150.

The US is the main obstacle to a General Assembly vote because it has veto power as a permanent Security Council member. In February, the US vetoed a resolution, which was co-sponsored by 130 countries, condemning Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories as an obstacle to peace. This time around, the Palestinians are hoping to persuade the US to at least abstain.

As a back-up, they are exploring other possible legal options. These include a loophole created by a 1950 resolution, which may allow the Security Council to be bypassed on issues of “world peace”. The Palestinians and their supporters are also looking at ways to press for UN General Assembly resolution 181 of 1947 to be enforced.

The resolution calls for the partition of British Mandate Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab one. At the very least, the Palestinians say they want the General Assembly to accept Palestine as an observer state.

What does the Palestinian proposal entail?

The formulation of the resolution that is emerging from Ramallah will be a “cut and paste” job of lines from the president’s speech on May 19, in which he presented the formula of the 1967 lines with mutually agreed border adjustments.

In a keynote policy speech on 19 May, US President Barack Obama issued a clear call for Israel and the Palestinians to use the borders existing before the 1967 Six Day War, with land swaps, as the basis for talks. However, he made it clear that an appeal to the UN for full membership for Palestine would be a mistake.

Mr Netanyahu rejected President Obama’s proposal outright, saying the Jewish state would be “indefensible” if it returned to the 1967 borders, which would exclude dozens of Jewish settlements. He also rejected the idea of dividing the city of Jerusalem. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday implored Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, calling it a “basic demand” for achieving peace in the region. Netanyahu directly addressed Abbas in this plea: “Just say these words – ‘I accept a Jewish state’. It is a basic demand for peace.”

After the snub delivered to Obama by Benjamin Netanyahu, the American President is not eager to use the right to veto again. Nor would siding with Israel against the odds look good for his re-election. Therefore, the Americans have been investing special effort in enlisting key European countries, first and foremost Germany – the weak link in initiatives depicted as being against the Jewish state – along with Britain and France, the permanent European members of the Security Council.

Obama has warned the Palestinians twice in recent days against unilateral moves.“The United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum,” he told the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC in a speech in Washington on Sunday. However, the U.S. would clearly want to avoid being put in the position of having to veto Palestinian statehood.

What if there is a deadlock?

President Barack Obama threw down a gauntlet this weekend: no vote at the United Nations, he asserted, would ever create a Palestinian state.

Never before has the assembly taken on a new member state without a nod from the council. But legal experts say there may be ways to maneuver around that block. One possibility of bypassing the Security Council – at least to a degree – is the so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution, first invoked in 1950 to circumvent further Soviet vetoes during the course of the Korean war, U.N. officials say.

To date, 10 emergency special sessions have been convened under “Uniting for Peace.” The Palestinians and their supporters could seek to hold another one, arguing that not recognizing a Palestinian state constitutes a threat to international peace and security.

Who supports and opposes the UN option?

After the recent reconciliation deal between rival political factions, even leaders of the Islamic militant organisation, Hamas, acknowledged there was a broad consensus on the establishment of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, though they formally still refuse to recognise Israel and their Charter is committed to its destruction.

The appeal to the UN is also backed by the 22-member Arab League. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday that the international community should accept the Palestinian request to become a UN member

Cyprus on Monday said it would rally support in Europe for the Palestinian bid for UN recognition of statehood in September. Cyprus recognized a Palestinian state on 1967 borders in January.

The main opposition comes from Israel. “Peace can only be achieved around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement will not bring peace,” Mr Netanyahu told a joint session of the US Congress in May.

Some major European Union states are looking increasingly favourably on the idea of recognising a Palestinian state. This is mainly because of their disappointment with Mr Netanyahu’s government in Israel-Palestinian peace talks and what they see as its recalcitrance over settlements.

In the coming weeks, both Palestinian and Israeli delegations will be on a diplomatic drive to win countries around to their point of view.

The Palestinian Authority had deployed delegations to make the rounds of nearly a dozen countries to try to drum up support for their bid to have the United Nations recognize a Palestinian state. They have to submit their bid by July 15 in order to have it considered at the UN General Assembly in mid-September.

Palestinian officials will visit Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries that have not yet endorsed the Palestinian plan for recognition, and all Palestinian ambassadors would meet in Madrid in early July to discuss how to gain the support of European Union member states.

Questions and Answers:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-13701636