Even though I was at an end-of-year retreat, I stayed up late last Monday to catch the breaking news covering the outcome of a vote that was taking place at the UN Security Council. It concerned a Palestinian proposal “put in blue” to the UN earlier in the week and that Ambassador Dina Kawar of Jordan had submitted to a vote at the Security Council.
Very broadly speaking, this resolution drew yet another roadmap for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One key component of this document – that had garnered the support of all 22 Arab states – suggested that there should be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the end of 2017. It also referred, inter alia, to occupation, settlements and Jerusalem.
Having heard about the intense efforts involved with the drafting of this resolution since the end of the Gaza war in August 2014, this was a moment where quite a few people will have bated their collective breaths to see whether it would garner the necessary nine votes in the UNSC and in so doing force the US to veto an Arab-sponsored resolution at a time when Arab countries feature in a US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
As it happened, the resolution fell one vote short of those nine elusive votes and everybody went home – some much happier than others. But as a result of this defeat, the PA president signed 20 international agreements that included the Rome Statute (of 2002) in a bid to have Palestine – a non-member observer state in the UN – join the ICC and as such be allowed (for his part) to take Israel to the Court in the Hague for war crimes.
It will also encourage the EU to equivocate further with its decisions, and might give right-wing parties in Israel a boost in the Knesset parliamentary elections of 17 March 2015.
Given it was bound to fail at this hurdle, Palestinians and their current legal / political advisors should perhaps have sought different counsel rather than act narrowly and even waited instead for the new non-permanent members of the UNSC to assume their seats in the new year before testing this option.
Equally, the Palestinian Authority should not have heeded to the belligerent but often self-hurting statements of rejectionist fronts and desisted from using this resolution as a red rag in the international arena. Rather, more strategically, it should have suggested to the EU member-states that it was willing to hold back on such a track and – equally critically – on the bid to join the ICC so long as they applied more stringent and less biased measures against settlements and the labelling of products coming into the EU as well as on the freedom of entry of settlers’ leaders into Europe. I am confident those gestures will have been met with positive feedback.
Instead, we now have a situation where Palestinian political fumbling and personalised decision-making offer Israeli annexationists and anti-two-state-solution advocates the opportunity to make hay with these Palestinian moves and portraying its leadership as aggressive and against any negotiated resolution of the conflict.
Alas, Mahmoud Abbas has staked his whole political career, often against considerable odds and despite great opposition let alone treachery, on negotiations but he has been stumped at every turn. Meanwhile, the US let alone the otiose Quartet have exhibited a sorry lack of gumption by failing to support Palestinian claims despite the fact that those are based on principles of International law and undergird international legitimacy.
So how much more desperate and frustrated should the Palestinians become, and how much more should they bend backward, until Israel and the western powers deign to bring closure to the encroaching occupation?
Meanwhile, the two-state solution that has been the mantra of most politicians is fast vanishing as a result of the thicket of illegal settlements and the appropriation of more lands. Besides, with successive Israeli stalling measures, not only are Palestinians suffering an ideological occupation but the very essence of the Zionist dream is also shrivelling as we near a bi-national solution that could be another disaster in the making. Is it not high time to act?
I have never shied away from being critical of the Palestinian leadership whether in the West Bank or Gaza. I have even paraphrased at times the Israeli statesman Abba Eban who uttered once that Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I am also aware that Palestinians are divided and prey to complicity, intrigue and factionalism. But those are not reasons for me to dampen my unflinching solidarity with a disempowered people or side with an arrogant and harsh victimiser at the expense of a molested and occupied victim – no matter the attributes of the victim. A solution is necessary, and we all are familiar with its contours and parameters. However, nobody seems to have the moral probity or good will let alone sufficient leverage to apply it so that we release ourselves from this endemic conflict.