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Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 10:38 AM CST

Happy Birthday Palestine: UN Votes "Yes" On Statehood Today

According to several sources the vote is in and the UN General Assembly has approved a tacit recognition of Palestinian statehood. The vote was 138 in favor, 9 against, 41 abstain.  

Happy Birthday Palestine: UN Votes "Yes" On Statehood Today

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According to several sources the vote is in and the UN General Assembly has approved a tacit recognition of Palestinian statehood. The vote was 138 in favor, 9 against, 41 abstain.

Before the vote, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the UN General Assembly to recognise Palestinian statehood by supporting a resolution to upgrade the UN observer status of the Palestinian Authority from "entity" to "non-member state."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said,

Supporting the Palestinian authorities is not only in the interest of the Palestinian side, but also of Israel and the whole international community that is longing for a peaceful political settlement.

Not surprisingly Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said in Jerusaem the vote will change "nothing on the ground."

Meanwhile accross the West Bank and Gaza today rallies of tens of thousands of people have been occuring.

The Ma'an News Agency reports

Tens of thousands took part in a march in Hebron where Palestinians waved flags from Fatah as well as Hamas to support the bid and national unity.

In Nablus, representatives of Palestinian factions and the revolutionary council of Fatah joined students and employees for a march that included Hamas officials, although the party was not officially participating.

“We carry a message to the whole world that says that we are capable of using all kinds of resistance. We are going to the UN, in order to protect our people, lands, and prisoners,” said Mahmud al-Aloul, a member of Fatah's central committee.

In Gaza City, Fatah held its first large-scale rally in the Gaza Strip since 2007, joined by representatives of national and Islamic factions.

Fatah revolutionary council members, including Ameen Maqboul, led a march at the Rashad al-Shawa building in support of the UN bid and called for national reconciliation.

In Tel Aviv, 300 activists took to the street in support of Palestine's UN bid The rally was organized by several organizations including Gush Shalom, Peace Now, Hadash and Meretz representatives. YNet News reports:

"What is happening today is an historic day for the Palestinian people and for us," said Uri Avneri from Gush Shalom. "If we choose the future we must help the Palestinians build their state."

Former Foreign Ministry director Dr. Alon Liel said, "As of today there is a Palestinian state. As of today we no longer control the life of a nation but the life of a separate state."

Dr. Nava Sonnenschein, director of the Wahat al-Salam school in Neve Shalom said, "We have come here to support you, Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and the Palestinian people.

"You have chosen a non-violent struggle and we respect that while the government talks with those who fire rockets. The Palestinians cannot wait any longer, let's work together to change reality."

Arab-Israeli singer Mira Awad performed at the rally and said she was "happy with Abbas' bid and very sad about the inexplicable refusal to finally give the Palestinian people a chance to move forward."

Former Knesset Member Mossi Raz said, "We call on Lieberman and Netanyahu: It's not too late. Order the ambassador to say 'Israel yes.'"

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said the he saw no reason to oppose the Palestinian UN bid. He added according to Yediot Ahranot newspaper, "Once the United Nations will lay the foundation for this idea, we in Israel will have to engage in a serious process of negotiations, in order to agree on specific borders based on the 1967 lines, and resolve the other issues."

At the UN today Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in his speech to the General Assembly:

Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel. The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine...

Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace and because its people, as proven in past days, are in desperate need of it...

Below you will find a statement from Dr. Nabil Shaath on the UN bid for statehood. Dr. Nabil Shaath is a member of the State of Palestine delegation to the UN, currently accompanying the Palestinian delegation in New York for the vote, is the Fatah Foreign Relations Commissioner and former Palestinian foreign minister. He was a member of the Madrid Peace Delegation and later was involved in negotiations with Israel that led to the signing of the Oslo Agreements. From 1993-1995, he served as the head of the Palestinian negotiation team, participating in the talks at Camp David (2000) and Taba (2001). He has also represented Palestine at the World Economic Forum. The statement was printed today in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. Following that is an analysis from ACRI printed in +972 on what it all may mean.

The time is now: Support Palestine’s UN bid

A Palestinian man takes part in a rally in support of President Mahmud Abbas in Gaza City on November 27, 2012.Photo by AFP

Today, Palestine will ask the UN General Assembly to vote on a resolution to enhance its status to that of Observer State. This step will be a milestone in realigning international efforts to achieve peace in the region, within the framework of international law and the values embodied in the UN Charter. There should be no doubt: Supporting this initiative will create a new, positive, and effective momentum for a just path to peace in our region.

Some are questioning what Palestine’s oft-termed “UN bid” represents. The enhancement of Palestine’s status at the UN is our sovereign right, anchored in the spirit and letter of international law. Self-determination isan inalienable right, enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sixty-five years ago, Israel was admitted to the UN based on its commitment to implement General Assembly resolutions 181 and 194. Palestine’s admission has been awaiting implementation for well over half a century.

The enhancement of Palestine’s status is a step towards ending the status quo and the entrenchment of Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid policies which severely oppress the Palestinian population, denying them their most basic human rights, and quickly rendering the two-state solution unviable.

The enhancement of Palestine’s status is a way to protect the internationally-agreed upon formula for peace: The two-state solution on the 1967 border. The ultimate objective, as declared by the entire international community, is that of two independent states living side by side in peace. This necessarily requires that Palestine is recognized as a state. Supporting this step will therefore contribute towards safeguarding the two-state solution. It is a serious attempt to end a 15 year impasse in the peace process imposed by Israel, while it continues to gobble up our land through its regime of colonization, segregation and control. Our attempt is an investment in peace, a release from severe political deadlock and a way to prevent the erosion of the two-state solution.

There have also been misleading suggestions as to what Palestine’s UN bid represents, which should be clarified. To begin with, the enhancement of Palestine’s status is not a unilateral step. While the declaration of independence by any country is inherently a sovereign and unilateral decision, going to the United Nations to seek recognition as a state among its 193 members is, on the contrary, a multilateral step par excellence.

The enhancement of Palestine’s status is not an attempt to bypass negotiations. Statehood, and indeed the recognition of statehood, is a sovereign right which has never been negotiated bilaterally and is not a final status issue. Independence and statehood have never been negotiable. The notion that Israel should approve the Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination is simply illogical, immoral, and totally unacceptable. Palestine is not seceding from a greater Israel; it is struggling to end peacefully its illegal occupation. The Palestinian leadership remains committed to the political process whereby all final status issues will be resolved through direct negotiations. However, the success of negotiations is contingent upon the existence of a credible and serious Israeli peace partner that is ready to commit to ending the occupation based on the parameters clearly outlined in previous negotiations, international law, and relevant UN resolutions. To be a credible negotiating partner, Israel must implement previously signed agreements, which Israel categorically ignores. Selective implementation by the occupier is no implementation at all. It creates nothing but


The enhancement of Palestine’s status is not an attempt to delegitimize Israel. We continue to honor our commitment to recognize the State of Israel on the borders of 1967. It is a step designed to legitimize the State of Palestine, to work towards its freedom and independence, and thus allow for a peaceful solution to this conflict. While this step may seek to expose the illegitimacy of the policies of colonization and apartheid being entrenched through the occupation, and the impunity and unaccountability of Israel, it is in no way an attempt to isolate Israel.

A number of obligations must be fulfilled. Firstly, Palestine has an obligation to its people. The PLO will use every peaceful and diplomatic tool within the framework of international law, in order to achieve freedom and independence for its people. This means ending an occupation which has oppressed and humiliated Palestinians for almost half a century, the last twenty of which we were engaged in a “peace process”, and finding a just and agreed-upon resolution for its refugees, who have now spent over 65 years in exile. Enhanced status at the UN will facilitate the achievement of these goals. It will also provide a glimmer of light at the end of this long dark tunnel, alleviating the state of frustration prevailing among our people and allowing us to continue our peaceful, non-violent struggle.

Israel has an obligation to cease its repeated and flagrant violations of international law. In the twenty years since the Peace Process began, the number of Israeli settlers has more than doubled, the illegal Wall continues to be built on Palestinian land despite an unequivocal advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against it, and East Jerusalem has been unlawfully and unilaterally annexed. Moreover, Israel has a moral obligation to end the suffering of Palestinians; to take responsibility for causing and perpetuating the refugee issue; and to hold those who commit brutal acts of terror against Palestinians, attacks which are increasing at an alarming rate, accountable for their actions.

The international community has a clear moral and legal obligation to support the Palestinians in their quest for self-determination. Those who voted in favor of partition, those who have promised us a state for 65 years, those who have witnessed the appalling policies of the Israeli occupation, owe it to the Palestinians to endorse this step. Moreover, in 2004, the ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Wall made it patently clear that fulfilling the Palestinians’ right to self-determination is a right erga omnes i.e. the concern of all states.

To date, 132 countries, a combined total of 75% of the world’s population, have formally recognized the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders. We are now calling on those countries, and all those who have not yet recognized us, to support the enhancement of our status in the UN General Assembly. If the international community is serious about the two-state solution, as it purports to be, then each member country needs to make good on their word by voting with Palestine, today, on November 29th. Palestine has been the exception to the UN promise for far too long. The time to act is now.

Q&A: Implications of the recognition of Palestinian statehood

How is this Palestinian Authority UN statehood bid different from last year’s? What’s an observer state? What does it mean for Oslo, or for the settlements? The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has the answers.

Flags of member nations flying at United Nations Headquarters. (photo: UN / Joao Araujo Pinto)

The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, recently announced that on 29 November [today] he intends to turn to the United Nations General Assembly, requesting to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status in the UN from an “observer entity” to a “non-member observer state.” This initiative follows the Palestinian bid to the UN Security Council in September 2011, asking to admit Palestine to the UN as a state – a request that was not yet discussed by the Council.

As in the previous bid, this, too, is a political move intended to increase and enhance international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 ceasefire borders. This move raises many questions regarding its potential implications, in general, and on the state of human rights in the region, in particular. As a human rights organization, ACRI does not take a position on peace-process policy questions. However, since the political changes in the region may have significant implications with regards to specific human rights questions, we tried to outline some of the expected impacts on human rights issues in this context. To read a similar briefing published by ACRI ahead of the previous Palestinian UN bid in September 2011, click here.

1. How is the current initiative different from the previous one?

In September 2011, the Palestinian Authority requested the UN Security Council to admit Palestine to the UN as a state. Turning from an entity into a “state” is not a result of a UN membership nor is it conditioned upon it. However, being admitted to the UN means gaining wide international acknowledgement of the existence of a Palestinian state. According to Article 4(2) of the UN Charter, in order to be admitted as a UN Member State, the request must be supported by the Security Council, where each of the permanent members has veto rights, as well as to win a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly vote. As noted above, this request was not yet discussed by the Council and is not likely to pass the veto obstacle. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority decided to turn to the alternative channel of upgrading its status in the General Assembly. A Security Council decision is not required in order to receive the status of a “non-member observer state” – only the support of the UN General Assembly. This move does not grant UN membership status, but it does serve the purpose of gaining wide international recognition.

2. What is the meaning of being upgraded in the UN to the status of an “observer state”?

The “observer state” status is not anchored in the UN Charter; rather, it is based on previous UN decisions. Currently, only the Vatican enjoys this status. In the past, states were allowed to become a party to international conventions, including conventions on human rights. An observer state is also permitted to become a party to international organizations and to hold hearings before the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), and its status with the International Criminal Court (ICC) might also change.

3. Would the current UN initiative change Israel’s status in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip? How about an Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state in temporary borders (Areas A and B)?

Following the Oslo Accords, many Israelis share the view that Israel is no longer responsible for the West Bank and Gaza. However, de facto Israel today still has control over the West Bank as well as over certain aspects of life in Gaza.

In the framework of the Oslo Accords, Israel transferred specific authorities to the Palestinian Authority, but it still holds all governing powers in the West Bank, including full control over Area C (62% of the West Bank), Jerusalem, water sources, civil and military control over the airspace, civil and military control over all border crossings, entry to and exit from the West Bank, and more.

The recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN, or an Israeli recognition of Areas A and B as a state, will have no bearing on Israel’s standing as an occupying power according to international law. “Occupation” is a legal definition that applies to territories in which a foreign military force is able to exercise complete or partial military control and civil-administrative control over the infrastructure and daily lives of the local residents. The laws of occupation oblige the occupying power with regards to responsibility to the civilians in the territory under its control. Occupation is not a function of a permanent military presence, but of the ability to effectively control the territory. This legal definition does not differentiate between the occupation of a territory recognized as a state and a territory that is not recognized as such, and therefore the legal status of the territory is irrelevant and as long as Israel has effective control over these territories it will continue to be considered an occupying power.

As for the Gaza Strip, the official Israeli position is that since this disengagement, the Israeli occupation of Gaza has ended. However, many in the international community reject this stance and maintain that the laws of occupation still apply and obligate Israel in matters that are still under its control. It is possible that that the recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state could lead to a re-examination of the international position regarding the status of the Gaza Strip.

4. Would this initiative have an effect on the validity of the Oslo Accords?

A Palestinian initiative to achieve recognition as an observer state is a unilateral measure that contravenes these accords and opens the door to a declaration of their non-validity or revocation. However, the absolute revocation of the Oslo Accords is not a necessary outcome. In the past, despite repeated violations of the Interim Agreement, neither party to it has announced their revocation. The question of the validity of the agreements and maintaining their frameworks is now, as before, subject to the decisions and the de facto actions of both sides.

5. What are the implications of this move on the Palestinian state’s responsibility for human rights violations?

Recognition of a Palestinian state could open the door for it to become a party to international conventions, including conventions on human rights. Should the Palestinian state become a party to these conventions, it would be obligated to uphold standards of international law and respect for human rights. These obligations would apply first and foremost to the citizens under its rule, but there are also implications for its obligations toward Israelis, including settlers. Furthermore, the Palestinian state would be subject to international mechanisms that monitor the implementation of these human rights conventions. Claims regarding violations of human rights by the Palestinian state could be adjudicated in various international forums – for example suspicions of torture conducted by Palestinian governmental bodies or on their behalf (see more on this below).

6. Would this move lead to the involvement of new international enforcement mechanisms?

Should Palestine be recognized as a state, it could become a party to international courts of law (the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court). This could create new mechanisms to enforce Israel’s obligations to respect the human rights of Palestinians, and at the same time to enable the enforcement of the Palestinian state’s obligations.

International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) – The ICJ addresses the responsibility of states, not of individuals. It is the leading and most important international judicial body. Both sides must agree that a dispute be brought before it.

International Criminal Court (ICC) – The International Criminal Court deals with individual responsibility for acts defined as international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide). Should the Palestinian state become a party to the ICC, this court would have jurisdiction over actions carried out in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: first, on Palestinians suspected of committing international crimes; and, second, on Israelis suspected of offenses within the territory of the Palestinian state. This jurisdiction would be applied directly and continuously, as opposed to the current situation, but only on crimes or suspected crimes that were committed after the Palestinian state becomes a party to it, should it be recognized as such according to the Statute of the Court.

7. What are the implications of this initiative on Israeli settlements?

If the Palestinian state would become a party to the International Criminal Court, the issue of Israeli settlements could become an issue of international criminal law. This, under the article in the Statute of the Court stating that the transfer, whether direct or indirect, of the population of the occupying power into occupied territory constitutes a war crime. This could potentially open the door to the prosecution of Israelis responsible for establishing or expanding settlements.

8. What are the implications of this move on the Palestinian state’s responsibility to prevent terrorism and threats?

Should the Palestinian state be recognized, this would enhance its responsibility to prevent terror and threats coming from its territory. This depends, of course, on the extent of control it has and the means available to it, since there is no responsibility without authority – but there similarly cannot be authority without responsibility. The Palestinian state would be obligated to take the necessary steps to prevent human rights violations by government authorities and official bodies. Thus, arbitrary killing of civilians and the launching of rockets on a civilian population in Israel could be submitted for deliberation both by the relevant UN committees and by the International Criminal Court.

Established in 1972, ACRI is Israel’s oldest and largest human rights organization and the only one dealing with the entire spectrum of rights and civil liberties issues in Israel and the Occupied Territories. This Q&A was originally published on ACRI’s site. Read more about ACRI here and follow ACRI on Twitter and Facebook.

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