Germany reverses on Palestinian bid at UN General Assembly

posted at 11:21 am on November 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The UN General Assembly will vote later today to admit the Palestinian Authority as a non-voting observer state, the first official recognition of statehood for the Palestine by the world body — boosted by Western approval, or at least tacit approval.  Germany announced earlier this morning that it had reversed its earlier position and decided to abstain rather than oppose the resolution, which recognizes the Palestinian state as defined by 1967 borders:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people are enjoying sweeping support in the lead up to Thursday night’s vote at the UN General Assembly over whether to upgrade the Palestinians’ standing to non-member observer status. By Thursday morning Israel time, that support had turned into a full-on landslide, as more European nations decided to alter their positions, essentially leaving Israel to fend for itself.

Early Thursday morning, just hours before the vote — scheduled to take place around 11:00 P.M. (Israel time) — Germany changed its mind, deciding to abstain from voting rather than opposing the Palestinian initiative, as Israel had assumed it would.

“The decision wasn’t taken lightly,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. “Germany shares the goal for a Palestinian state. We have campaigned for this in many ways, but the recent decisive steps towards real statehood can only be the result of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” the German official said.

The UN General Assembly is expected to pass a historic resolution recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state.

Until now, the Western position had been that the borders had to be drawn as part of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in a two-state settlement.  Israel has repeatedly committed to the two-state solution, in both English and Hebrew, the official languages of its state.  Mahmoud Abbas has committed to a permanent two-state solution only in English to international audiences; when speaking in Arabic to his own people, he has never committed to recognition of Israel as a permanent sovereign state [see update].

Ha’aretz includes this helpful graphic to show Israel’s diplomatic isolation on forcing the Palestinians to negotiate for statehood recognition:

Only Canada, Guatemala, the Czech Republic, and the US (among Ha’aretz’ “major players”) have publicly announced opposition to the proposal to recognize Palestine as a state without Palestinian recognition of Israel as a state — even though Israel is a member of the UN.

Jeff Dunetz says there are more defects in the proposal than just that:

According to article 4 of the United Nations charter membership is reserved for states (and “peace loving” states at that. But Abbas the man who arraigned the financing for the Munich Massacre, is asking for “non-member state” status” so his terrorist organization Fatah can join the International Criminal Court and wage “Lawfare” against Israel.

Palestine does not even meet the minimum qualifications of a state under international law. As CAMERA points out:

Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States provides the internationally recognized criteria of statehood:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

This Palestinian entity, which will be called a state by the UN today, has none of the above.

Why did Germany switch its vote?  The UK’s decision to switch swayed a lot of thinking in Europe, according to one Israeli official:

This, in effect, leaves Israel without any European country supporting it at the international forum. Officials in Israel said that Germany’s decision was influenced by Britain. “Britain’s dramatic reversal prompted the Germans to change their mind,” a Foreign Ministry official said. “We lost Europe. More than half of its countries will vote with the Palestinians, and the rest will abstain.”

Except for the Czechs, of course, who know what it’s like to have their country carved up and treated as fodder by Europeans pursuing deluded notions of appeasement.  Some lessons just never quite sink in.

Update: Commenter Lexhamfox supplies a quote from Abbas in Arabic from September of this year:

Abbas said in a press conference following the meeting that Palestine recognizes Israel and that Israel has to recognize the independent state of Palestine too.

SOUNDBITE 1 (Arabic) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

“Israel is an existing state and we recognize it. We recognize it although certain authorities or states do not recognize it. We recognize a state on the 1967 border and the Israelis have to recognize us too. Israel is required to recognize the Palestinian state according to the two-state solution.”

Abbas said that if Israel wants to complete negotiations it has to recognize the two-state solution according to [1967] borders, adding added that Palestinian UN membership could stop the Israeli settlement construction.

Update II: Via The Week, the liberal Tikkun is optimistic:

The U.S. and Israel should welcome the Palestinian Authority’s proposal, says Rabbi Michael Lerner at Tikkun. “The authority has agreed to return to negotiations with Israel without conditions once that status has been granted,” with the goal of “a state living in peace with Israel in borders roughly approximating those of the [era] before than 1967 war, with minor border changes mutually agreeable through negotiations.” Hamas, on the other hand, wants nothing short of Israel’s destruction. And the only way it can achieve that is by provoking war to keep the Palestinian people living in fear. “So the last thing Hamas wants is for the Palestinian Authority to win popular esteem by being seen as having ‘delivered’ a real tangible accomplishment to the Palestinian people in the form of statehood.”

If this leads to a settlement with which Israel can guarantee its existence as a sovereign nation and establish the two-state solution (or perhaps three-state, now) in fact rather than theory, then I will celebrate it.  So far, I’m not as optimistic about that outcome from this event.  We’ll see if Abbas keeps his promise to return to negotiations after this passes, or instead just starts filing complaints at The Hague.


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