The Paw Print
The creation of an independent Palestine, side by side with Israel, is broadly supported internationally, formally backed by successive U.S. administrations, and enjoys popular support in Israel, according to polling data. Yet efforts by Palestinian authorities to gain statehood recognition at the UN have generated controversy.
Following a failed bid to achieve full UN membership in 2011, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas managed to successfully push through a bid for formal recognition of non-member state status for Palestine at the General Assembly on November 29, 2012.
In a Sept. 2011 speech, Abbas said he was moved to act by a lack of progress in the peace talks and ongoing Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which he terms illegal. The Palestinian territories should “be represented in [their] natural borders,” Abbas said. The Palestinians seek recognition on the 1967 borders, including Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
After the historic decision was made by the UN to recognize Palestine as a non-member state, the acceptance speech given to the general assembly at the UN by Abbas focused on the right for both states to exist.
“We do not seek to delegitimize an existing state—that is Israel; but rather to assert the state that must be realized—that is Palestine,” said Abbas.
The change allows the Palestinians to participate in General Assembly debates. It also improves the Palestinians’ chances of joining UN agencies and the International Criminal Court (ICC), although the process would be neither automatic nor guaranteed. If they are allowed to sign the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the Palestinians hope prosecutors would investigate alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many in the Israeli government see the recent decision by the UN has a major setback to peace talks. Netanyahu fears that the Palestinian Authority will use their new status to build a platform of “anti-Israel policy” that will cause further “isolation” of the two governments while ignoring the right to an Israeli existence.
“This is additional proof that this is not a dispute over land but a denial of the existence of the State of Israel,” added Netanyahu.
Even with the possibility of complete Palestinian statehood, its actual effects for the people of Palestine would mean very little in tangible terms. If the Palestinians were to receive full state hood it would only be a symbolic victory, it would lack any formal recognition of sovereignty, borders, and other such considerations normally attendant with state status. Acquiring these things from Israel would require direct negotiations. Even with the recent endorsement by the General Assembly of non-member statehood, the Palestinians have gained no real political ground with the Israelis.
Already, the Israeli government has decided to withhold over 100 million dollars in taxes and funds it owes to the Palestinian Authority because of the recent UN decision. These funds are desperately needed by the Palestinian government to pay their state employees.
On top of withholding funds from the Palestinian government, the Israeli government is planning on building 3,000 new settlements in the West Bank which will only continue to create more tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.