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U.N. Recognition of Palestinians Still Far Off

Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 25 2011 (IPS) - Despite massive support from the international community, the Palestinian quest for recognition as an independent and sovereign nation is unlikely to materialise soon, say political observers and diplomats here.

“That is not going to happen,” an African diplomat who has spent more than a decade at the U.N. as an ambassador told IPS. “Yes, the Palestinians have huge support in the General Assembly, but for the recognition as a new member state they need approval from the Security Council.”

Recent diplomatic efforts by the Palestinians won the support of as many as 140 countries out of 192 General Assembly members. But, that is not enough to establish statehood because U.N. rules require the backing of the powerful 15-member Security Council as well.

“More than 90 percent of the member states are in support of the proposal to adopt a resolution in September that would call for Palestinian statehood,” a senior U.N. official who has worked for the world body for more than two decades, told IPS.

Membership to the organisation can only be granted by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. “Recognition of a new state or government is an act only states and governments may grant or withhold,” according to a spokesperson for the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “It generally implies readiness to assume diplomatic relations.”

Recent statements from Washington on the Israeli-Palestine conflict suggest it is highly unlikely that the U.S., a staunch ally of Israel, would endorse a resolution on the establishment of the Palestinian state. The U.S. is one of the five veto-wielding members on the Security Council.

During her speech at the Security Council meeting Thursday, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., made it clear that U.S. support for Israel would remain unconditional, and implicitly suggested that there would be no support for any U.N.-based initiative to recognise a Palestinian state.

“We are deeply concerned by the escalation of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into southern Israel,” Rice said. “We are particularly disturbed by reports indicating the increased use of advanced weaponry, including rockets, in attacks against Israeli civilians.”

After reading a few words in support of a two-state solution and expressing concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Rice spent much of her speech defending Israel’s position – with harsh criticism of an alleged Iranian supply of weapons to the Palestinians.

Rice also criticised non-governmental organisations’ initiatives to supply humanitarian goods to Palestinians in Gaza, and said that there was “no justification” for them to do so – an argument that has been raised by the Israeli establishment and its allies in the U.S.

While addressing the Security Council meeting, Meron Reuben, the Israeli envoy to the U.N., reiterated Israel’s concern about rocket attacks by Palestinian militants and suggested that the recognition of Palestine as an independent state would not happen without the consent of Israel.

“It cannot be imposed from the outside,” Reuben told the Security Council, hinting at diplomatic efforts to pass a General Assembly resolution endorsing the state of Palestine as new member of the U.N.

He suggested that in order to resolve the conflict, Israel would like to have “direct talks” with the Palestinians. “We need solution, not resolution,” he told the Council, implying that any resolution in support of the recognition of an independent Palestinian state would not be acceptable.

As of March this year, more than 100 states had recognised the state of Palestine. According to a U.N. Security Council report issued Apr. 19, several European countries, including most recently Britain, have upgraded Palestinian diplomatic status.

While briefing the Council Thursday on the situation in the Middle East, Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. chief for political affairs, said he recognised the Palestinians’ achievements of institution-building and stressed that bold and decisive steps were needed to resolve the decades-old conflict.

Pascoe has been severely criticised by the Israel lobby in the U.S. for his independent judgments and remarks about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. In his briefing, he noted that both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had reported “strong progress in institution-building” in Palestine.

In his view, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is “above the threshold for a functioning state”, but, at the same time, he says that the international community must be aware that “admirable achievements” by the PA are limited to certain parts of the occupied Palestine territory, and do not apply to all areas.

Pascoe said the international community “is rightly concerned” at the protracted peace process, and said that the resumption of Israeli- Palestinian peace negotiations was “urgent”.

U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS that the secretary-general was fully aware of what was happening in the region and that the Quartet meeting on the peace process was likely to take place soon. The Quartet includes the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia.

In his speech, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour urged the Security Council members to rein in Israel for its aggressive actions against the Palestinians, and said that the body must “apply to Israel the same legal and moral yardstick applied to all other issues on the global agenda”.

Over the past several decades, both the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly have passed numerous resolutions that Israel continues to defy – mainly due to strong backing from the U.S.

“The council cannot surrender in the face of continued Israeli defiance,” said Mansour. “It must be unwavering in calls for respect of law and its own resolutions, and act with conviction to compel Israel, the occupying power, to cease its obstruction of peace and stability in our region.”

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