On Thursday evening, the United Nations general assembly firmly endorsed Palestine’s bid for non-permanent observer membership in the 193-member body, recognizing the old aspiration of the Palestinians who have been yearning for regaining their occupied and stolen homeland for more than 64 years and looking forward to the realization of their inalienable rights throughout the course of these breathtaking years.
About 138 countries voted in favor of the resolution for Palestine’s observer membership to the U.N. while only 9 states voted against, showing an increased international solidarity with the cause of the Palestinian nation, especially after the deadly Operation Pillar of Defense which claimed the lives of dozens of Palestinian civilians living in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The new observer state status may hardly have significant practical implications for the Palestinians, because they remember how the United States last year blocked efforts made by Mahmoud Abbas to convince the Security Council to grant Palestine full membership to the United Nations, but it’s diplomatically an unquestionable triumph for the people of Palestine and marks the beginning of a long way toward the complete fulfillment of the tampered rights of this subjugated nation.
Last year, the United Nations’ cultural body UNESCO granted Palestine full membership, immensely annoying the United States and its allies who provide the majority of the organization’s funding. It was after the decision made by the UNESCO General Conference that the United States threatened to cut off its annual $70 million contribution to UNESCO.
The historical reality is that the land of Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people and they don’t need resolutions or votes to demonstrate this right. It was on November 29, 1947 when the 56-member United Nations decided to partition the land of Palestine and establish a Jewish state, and even if we admit that this decision and the subsequent Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948 were legally justifiable according to the international law, the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israeli forces occupied the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights leaves no doubt that Israel is an occupying power and should relinquish the Arab lands that it stole from Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
Mahmoud Abbas’s speech before the United Nations general assembly last night which received several standing ovations from the representatives of member states contained accurate historical allusions and decisive statements, showing that Palestine now has the upper hand in the international equations and the majority of the world's countries sympathize with the objectives of the Palestinian nation and support its quest for the fulfillment of its rights. It’s interesting that 11 out of 27 countries of the European Union also voted in favor of Palestine’s observer member status and showed a growing rift among the members of the seemingly unified and coherent European bloc.
Mahmoud Abbas eloquently reaffirmed that East Jerusalem should remain Palestine’s capital, as it has been throughout the course of history. He said that his people have incessantly been under duress and pressure on different fronts, and that the recent carnage in Gaza Strip was an outright war crime perpetrated by Israel. He reiterated that voting in favor of the resolution approving Palestine’s membership to the U.N. is tantamount to issuing a birth certificate for Palestine and is the last chance for the accomplishment of the two-state solution.
Of course Abbas was right. He seemed to be speaking more categorically and unequivocally than before. Some Palestinian groups such as Hamas had previously accused Abbas of betraying the cause of resistance and backing away from Palestinians’ rights, especially in January 2011 and after Al-Jazeera published leaks showing that Abbas had offered concession in his talks with the Israelis in 2008, particularly on the status of East Jerusalem. However, Abbas came to the U.N. General Assembly with full force last night and unambiguously stressed that East Jerusalem is the undeniable right of the Palestinians and should be Palestine’s capital forever.
“There was no need for thousands of deadly raids and tonnes of explosives for the world to be reminded that there is an occupation that must come to an end,” he said.
Although Palestine’s statehood and its membership to the U.N. may give Israel a pretext to stall or delay peace talks, or reinvigorate its air-strikes and raids on the Gaza Strip, this reality cannot be escaped that in the foreseeable future, even if it takes many years to come to fruition, Palestine will become a full U.N. member and have the East Jerusalem as its inseparable capital. Palestine’s admission to the U.N. will surely rattle Israel’s shaky foundations and put more international pressure on it to engage in negotiations, especially given the fact that many European countries, under pressure from their people, are tacitly adopting a more pro-Palestinian attitude.
It should not be forgotten that Mahmoud Abbas’s surprising attending the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran earlier in August 2012 while a number of close allies of President Ahmadinejad such as the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or Bolivian President Evo Morales didn’t come to Tehran was a clear signal that Iran and the Palestinian Authority are coming closer to each other, and this myth that Iran doesn’t accept or allow a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine and continues to sow the seeds of discord between Israelis and Palestinians will be debunked.
And finally, what should be taken into consideration is that this diplomatic breakthrough for Palestine which received the support of 138 nations and the implicit backing of 41 abstaining states will deliver a serious blow to Israel and the immediate reaction of Tel Aviv may be a few-month-long silence and then a forced engagement in peace talks under pressure from President Obama who seems to have no reasons to be afraid of the Israeli lobby in the next four years.