Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A guide to the Palestinian statehood bid: for, against, and undecided

The unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is ultimately the creation of another Gaza or northern Lebanon in the heart of Israel. When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and northern Lebanon, the respective territory became not a basis for an entity that could develop healthy economic, political and social relations with Israel, but rather fertile ground for shooting rockets deeper into Israeli territory and infiltrating its borders to commit acts of violence on civilians--official strategic policies advanced by parties that were democratically elected, i.e. supported by the population, in the case of Gaza.

Moreover, as 45 years have passed since the said territory was won by Israel in a war they did not want (keep in mind: Palestinians, along with Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon were enemies of Israel prior to 1967, when Israel had those dreamy pre-67 borders), the West Bank is now home to nearly one million Israelis, who have since built vibrant and extensive infrastructure, cities, schools, transportation systems, community centers and agriculture. In the present security context, the declaration of a Palestinian state outside of the context of a peace agreement with Israel is a declaration of war on a sovereign country.

In the days leading up to Abbas' formal application for UN membership at the UN this Friday, Israeli and Palestinian officials are busy tallying up pledges by countries to vote for and against the bid. The potential upcoming and critical votes on the matter, and the expected outcomes, are as follows:

UN Security council vote

On Friday, September 23, Mahmoud Abbas will submit the membership application to the UN Secretary General after his address to the General Assembly. Still, the UN Security Council vote on the bid may be delayed for several weeks. If a vote should happen, the bid would require a majority of 9 out of 15 votes in favor in order to pass. As it stands, out of the 15 members of the UN so-called Security Council, six or seven have pledged to support the Palestinian bid. Palestinian foreign minister Raid Malki said that officials are now busy trying to convince two or three more members in favor of accepting Palestine as a member state.
Permanent members: The UN security council is composed of five permanent members: China, France, Russia, Britain and the US. Britain and France have thus far not announced an official position, although have said that Palestinians should approach the EU rather than the UN. China and Russia are likely to support the bid. 
Non-permanent members: In addition to the five permanent members, the General Assembly periodically elects ten non-permanent members, who take part in the council for two-year terms. The current non-permanent members and their position on the bid are as follows:
In favor (6): BrazilIndia, Lebanon, South Africa (China, Russia)
Against (2): Germany (US)
Will abstain (1): Colombia 
Undecided (6=have not yet made an official announcement, as of 9/20): Portugal, Bosnia, Nigeria, Gabon (Britain, France)
[Note: as a result of Palestinian pressure, YNet reports that Gabon and Nigeria are set to endorse the bid, although no formal announcement has been made]
In other words, the fate of Israel could lie in the hands of a West African nation most people never new existed, with a population of 1.5 million.

General Assembly vote

If Gabon and Nigeria indeed endorse the bid, and if Palestinians (h"v) enlist the support of either Portugal, Nigeria or Bosnia (this article says Portugal is likely to endorse), amounting to a majority in the Security Council, then the US will most likely be forced to use its veto power to kill the motion.

However, this still leaves the Palestinians with the option of going to the General Assembly, by invoking Resolution 377, which states that if the Security Council fails to exercise its responsibility for the "maintenance of international peace and security," the General Assembly can in effect bypass the Security Council decision. Legal experts have emphasized that the wording of the resolution does not have the backing of international law, but Israeli officials are not taking chances.

Should the Palestinians go to the General Assembly after facing a US veto, they would require two-thirds of 193 votes in order for the membership bid to pass.

Some are warning that the Palestinians may bypass the Security Council entirely and head straight for the General Assembly, should their chances there be better. 


This is where countries like Indonesia come into the picture. And specifically, efforts by countries like Indonesia to not only back the bid, but lobby other countries to support it.

On Tuesday, after a meeting with Kazakhstani and Portugese officials, Indonesia's foreign minister announced that the country is actively seeking opportunities to ensure Palestine's bid for UN membership.

Also on Tuesday, Indonesian officials upgraded the status of the Mount Tambora volcano to Level 3, after volcano activity increased, raising the risk of the emission of toxic gas to neighboring villages, and forcing evacuations of these areas.

The Mount Tambora volcano was responsible for the largest and deadliest volcanic eruption in history, in April 1815, in which nearly 100,000 people were killed.

In April, Tambora showed signs of awakening. In August, it made headlins for spewing thick white smoke into the sky.

Throughout the month of September, earthquake activity has increased.

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