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Cameron Holds the Key to Palestinian Statehood Bid at the United Nations

Posted on the 14 September 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Cameron holds the key to Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations

Separation wall between Israel and Palestine. Photo credit: Dafna Kaplan/DLisbona

Next week, a delegation of Palestinian leaders is expected to appeal to the United Nations General Assembly to accept Palestine as an independent state. The bold and risky diplomatic move has heightened tensions in the Middle East and divided the commentariat. The Obama administration has said it will veto the UN declaration of Palestinian statehood in the Security Council. The position of David Cameron’s British government on Palestinian statehood is not yet clear but it has been identified as a crucial and potentially deciding factor.

  • British position on Palestinian statehood is key. Writing at The Guardian, Jonathan Freedland explained the diplomatic arithmetic: “Barack Obama has already said the US will vote against any Palestinian move towards statehood at the UN general assembly now gathering in New York. Large swaths of Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East plan to vote for it. Which leaves Europe as the diplomatic battleground. If the leading European powers side with the US, the Palestinian initiative will be seen as a failure. If an EU majority backs recognition in some form, the Palestinians can claim symbolic victory.” Freedland then spelled out how opinion in Europe is shaping up: “France and Spain want to say yes, Germany and Italy are wary. Which leaves Britain with something akin to a casting vote in the ‘quintet’ of leading European nations. How David Cameron jumps will be crucial in determining Europe’s stance, and therefore the fate of the Palestinian effort itself. For decades Britain has talked about punching above its weight. Now its weight really counts.”
  • No policy is the policy. For now. David Blackburn of The Spectator’s Coffee House blog suggested that Britain’s policy remains a work-in-progress: “it seems that the policy is not to have a policy. The government admits that it doesn’t know which way it would vote. Much will depend on the wording of any motion and there are suggestions that abstention might be the most diplomatic course of action in any event. However, the government is committed to a two state solution, but one in which the Palestinians explicitly recognise and respect Israel’s right to exist. I’m told that any ‘yes’ vote depends on that requirement.”

Reporting from Ramallah, Tobius Buck of The Financial Times said the “diplomatic high-wire act” may have “garnered controversy and attention in capitals around the world” but “among ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, however, the mood is far more sanguine. Few believe that the UN move will improve their lives on the ground. Fewer still dare to hope that it will bring an end to the Israeli occupation.”

  • Straw: Back the bid. PoliticsHome reported that former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has urged MPs to back Palestine’s bid for statehood. In a letter to all 650 MPs Straw called for Parliamentarians to throw their weight behind next week’s attempted Palestinian bid to get official recognition at the UN: “I believe the way forward is for the international community to recognise a Palestinian state alongside Israel and admit it to the UN.”
  • Declaration is an aggressive stunt. Melanie Phillips of The Daily Mail fiercely opposed any UN recognition of a Palestinian state: “Such a state will be a Potemkin polity with no political coherence, fixed shape or legal legitimacy. The unilateral declaration is demonstrably an aggressive stunt and an act of purposeful hostility against Israel.  One might indeed say that, if the GA votes in favour of this incendiary gesture, this will effectively be the GA’s declaration of war upon Israel.” Phillips declared that “the fact that the British government is even now – with a week to go before the General Assembly session opens – refusing to condemn this cynical stunt is deeply shocking in itself. First, it means the UK is contemplating supporting an initiative that tears up binding treaty obligations and thus makes a mockery of international law. Second, given that the vote is already being used to whip up mob hysteria against Israel on its borders, the British government’s refusal to condemn this initiative – or worse still, if it actually supports it — risks making the UK an accessory to any violence that this vote may bring in its train.” Phillips stressed that MPs should ask Cameron “just why the British government is so gung-ho for a racist Palestinian state ethnically cleansed of Jews, led by a Holocaust-denier and committed to the destruction of the Jews’ national homeland – and why it is even considering endorsing the repudiation of international law to bring it about.”
  • A Palestine free of Jews? “Bad news for those supporting of a Palestinian State – The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s ambassador to the US said yesterday that the planned state should be free of Jews,” said the influential right-of-centre Guido Fawkes blog, adding “Can any historians out there remind us of the last state to proclaim such an idea?” Fawkes reported that adebate is raging in the Foreign Office about whether the UK should or should not vote in favour Palestinian Statehood at the UN.”

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