What if Israel recognized Palestine?


The United Nations voted overwhelmingly for recognition of the State of Palestine. The decision sparked jubilation in many Arab countries. Israel and the USA, on the other hand, see the peace process hindered by the upgrading.

This content was published on November 30, 2012 - 9:45 am
swissinfo.ch and agencies

The promotion of Palestine from observer to observer state at the UN found a clear majority of 70% among the 193 member states: 138 states voted for, 9 against, including Israel and the USA. Forty-one members abstained in New York.

The status of the observer state, which was created specifically for Switzerland at the time, only applies within the UN.

Switzerland was one of the countries that voted for recognition in New York. "We believe that the recognition of Palestine as an observer state at the UN will revive the concept of a two-state solution," said Paul Seger, the Swiss UN ambassador in New York. His country's vote was motivated by the desire to get the deadlocked peace process in the region moving again.

The voice of Switzerland in particular was of great importance for the Palestinian side, as Elias Sanbar, Palestinian ambassador to Unesco, told the Westschweizer Zeitung Le Temps made clear. The Geneva-based UN organization recognized Palestine as the first international organization to become a full member in 2011.

"If a country whose most fundamental principles include neutrality does not abstain, it shows how unmistakable the Palestinian request has become. This unmistakability is a force," said Sambar. "Switzerland only has one vote, but the response is enormous due to Switzerland's neutrality."

"Last chance for two-state solution"

Before the vote, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas asked the General Assembly to sign the "birth certificate for the reality of a state of Palestine". "The international community now faces the last chance to save the two-state solution," said Abbas. At the same time he declared that he wanted to breathe "new life" into the peace talks with Israel.

The Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor warned of the "unbalanced" resolution. "As long as President Abbas travels to New York for UN resolutions instead of Jerusalem for real dialogue, peace is out of reach".

Immediately after the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that UN recognition violated agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and that his country would take appropriate action.

In addition to Israel, the USA and other states also rejected the revaluation. "This resolution does not establish a Palestinian state," said US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are still the only way to find a solution to the Middle East conflict.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called on Israel and the Palestinians to renew efforts in the peace process, which is currently in "intensive care". The Middle East conflict can only be resolved through "direct negotiations," said Ban.

Follow the decades of toleration

According to Middle East experts, the USA and the European Union (EU) in particular contributed to the clear decision in favor of the Palestinians by tolerating the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories over the past few decades.

The USA and the EU are also the ones who would continue to insist on negotiations with Israel as the only way to peace. Corresponding pressure would only be exerted on the Palestinian Authority, not on Israel.

Against this background, observers regard the recognition by the UN General Assembly as a diplomatic success. But this will not be of much use to the Palestinians, say the experts with a view to the elections in Israel next January. With these, a clear slide to the right is to be expected.

"The top places in the Likud list have been filled by candidates who no longer pay lip service to a two-state solution. That will then determine reality," writes Claudia K├╝hner in the newspaper Daily indicator.

The new Palestine status

The status of the observer state at the UN gives Palestine no statehood under international law.

Nevertheless, the upgrading from a UN observer to an observer state gives Palestine more weight.

The Palestinians can now work in committees at the UN and have the right to speak. However, there is no right to vote in the General Assembly for the Palestinians.

However, they could appear as plaintiffs at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and bring Israel's settlements in the occupied territories to the agenda.

But President Abbas has promised not to call the International Criminal Court "tomorrow".

So far, the International Criminal Court has refused to investigate war crimes in the Palestine conflict because Palestine was not recognized as a state.

In the event that Palestine is upgraded to an observer state, however, the Hague Court has promised a reassessment.

This possibility is causing some unrest on the Israeli side.

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