UNESCO vote adds to a grubby anti-Israel tradition at the UN.
UNESCO has granted “Palestine” full membership in another reckless move at the United Nations which harms the prospects for a real and lasting peace.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on Monday became the first UN agency to give “Palestine” full membership, passing the motion overwhelmingly with 107 votes in favour, 14 against and 52 abstentions.
The Commentator has written before about the issue of the Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence. However, since September, when the Security Council decided to put the Palestinian resolution into committee, the world’s media has gone relatively quiet on this important issue.
The UNESCO vote and the impending November 11 deadline for the committee to deliver their report puts this matter firmly back on the radar.
Palestinian diplomats are understood to be trying to muster support for an immediate vote. Needing a minimum of nine “yes” votes and no veto by any of the council’s five permanent members, it is unlikely that any vote will pass.
But with eight Security Council votes in the bag (Russia, China, India, South Africa, Brazil, Lebanon, Nigeria and Gabon), the Palestinians are clearly trying to win enough support to trigger a US veto and then claim a “moral” victory.
The politics of the Security Council must not be underplayed. Timing is crucial.
If the vote gets postponed and come January 2012 there is still no resolution, the five current non-permanent members will be replaced by five newly elected ones and the change could well create a grouping less likely to approve the Palestinian bid. Strong Palestinian backers such as Brazil and Lebanon will be leaving the Council and Guatemala will be joining.
Notably, Israel is Guatamala’s single largest supplier of military aid and the country has never recognised a Palestinian state before.
Others have also written for the Commentator about the importance of considering all angles of the UDI debate. The much touted French “compromise solution” of conferring Observer Status on the Palestinians should be examined carefully as even this holds risks to Israel and the future of the peace process.
Britain must be clear that it must not pave the way for Palestinians to “pursue claims against Israel” at the UN and other international bodies.
The US has labelled UNESCO’s approval of full Palestinian membership – and UDI generally, for that matter – as “premature” and a distraction from the goal of restarting direct negotiations between the parties.
(The US also, instantaneously, severed contributions to UNESCO meaning that along with Israel’s withdrawal of funding, the UN body’s budget now faces a shortfall of around 25 percent.)
The broad point is that unilateral Palestinian moves will bring no real change on the ground since Israel will inevitably, and rightly, reject them.
They simultaneously risk provoking violence by handing the initiative to the many Palestinian men of violence who could then argue that diplomacy has failed and that “resistance” – read terrorism – is the only option left to them.
William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, has stated time and time again that it is negotiations rather than unilateral action that will bring peace.
But how does this explain the British abstention from the UNESCO vote yesterday? It seems that, as usual, the Foreign Office is more interested in placating Arab and Palestinian opinion than in doing what is right and sensible.
Strong mediators like the US and – hopefully – the UK must see through these political games and show robust leadership.
The first step in doing this will be for the UK to make the right decision at the UN Security Council and decisively reject Palestinian unilateralism.
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