Yesterday, the US warned the Palestinian Authority not to seek recognition at the UN General Assembly, but the warning doesn’t appear to have carried much weight with Mahmoud Abbas … or even our closest diplomatic allies. Earlier this morning, France’s Foreign Minister announced to the National Assembly that it would vote in favor of granting Palestine non-member status in the UNGA:
France said on Tuesday it would vote in favour of Palestinian non-member status at the United Nations, boosting Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition.
Frustrated that their bid for full U.N. membership last year was thwarted by U.S. opposition in theU.N. Security Council, Palestinians have launched a watered-down bid for recognition as a non-member state, similar to the status the Vatican enjoys.
The proposal, which is due to be put to the vote in the General Assembly at the end of the week, would implicitly recognize Palestinian statehood. It could also grant access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where the Palestinians could file complaints against Israel.
The UK may not be far behind, reports The Guardian, although London has put conditions on its support. One of those conditions is that Abbas agree not to seek access to The Hague:
Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has called for Britain’s backing in part because of its historic responsibility for Palestine. The government has previously refused, citing strong US and Israeli objections and fears of long-term damage to prospects for negotiations.
On Monday night, the government signalled it would change tack and vote yes if the Palestinians modified their application, which is to be debated by the UN general assembly in New York later this week. As a “non-member state”, Palestine would have the same status as the Vatican.
Whitehall officials said the Palestinians were now being asked to refrain from applying for membership of the international criminal court or the international court of justice, which could both be used to pursue war crimes charges or other legal claims against Israel.
Abbas is also being asked to commit to an immediate resumption of peace talks “without preconditions” with Israel. The third condition is that the general assembly’s resolution does not require the UN security council to follow suit.
Two issues arise from this break in Western unity. First, the British might seek a guarantee that Abbas won’t abuse the UN’s enforcement agencies to pursue claims against Israel, but they’re absolutely deluded if they think Abbas will keep that commitment. One only has to look at the history of the UN’s human-rights panels to see exactly what will happen once the Palestinian government has access to those groups. They will spend all of their time and effort demonizing Israel, while being chaired and run by some of the most detestable tyrannies on the planet whose own human-rights records make a mockery of the UN.
This also demonstrates the ineptitude of the Obama administration in maintaining diplomatic unity. Did the White House not know that France and the UK were ready to grant this level of recognition before threatening to cut off aid to Abbas if he pursued it? Did they even try to get our two allies back to a united front that would force Abbas to deal directly with Israel? Regardless how one feels about the merits of Abbas’ application, this kind of disunity makes the US look impotent at a particularly bad time to have that appearance.
With France publicly on board, expect the UK to soon follow suit — and the declaration at the UNGA to follow quickly. The Hague had better start hiring more staff soon.