US main obstacle to peace in Palestine

Tue Sep 6, 2011 5:10AM GMT
Interview with Hussein Ibish, senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP)
Acting Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief Mahmoud Abbas is to address the United Nations in three weeks from now to finally deliver the highly anticipated request of admitting Palestine as a full UN member state.


The move has received mixed reviews from Palestinians. Some have welcomed it while others are casting doubt on its usefulness.

Press TV talks with Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, to further discuss the issue. Following is the text of the interview:

Press TV: Let’s begin with the veto from the US which seems to be the main obstacle for the Palestinian bid for statehood.

Ibish: It is the main obstacle to the Palestinian bid for full UN membership because the way the process works is a putative state applies for the Secretary General who refers that application to the Security Council. The Security Council has to recommend it to the General Assembly which then needs to adopt it by a two-third vote.

The US has made it clear that it would veto that, so the possibility for full UN membership for the Palestinian is out of the question at the moment. The alternative that people are discussing, or one of the many alternatives, is to bypass the Security Council all together and forgo full UN membership and not even force the question but go directly to the General Assembly and ask for a change of status, from having a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mission, which is a political entity observer to having Palestine being a non-member observer state.

In the past there have been 16 non-member observer states, all of which have become UN members eventually with the exception of the Vatican which doesn’t want to be a member and that is if you count unified Germany and unified Vietnam. So, that is a big appeal to the Palestinians.

There is a complication here though, because although there is no doubt that they can get a majority very easily for that in the General Assembly, the Israelis seem to have put together a group of about 28 or 30 major countries, most of the West and Japan which would probably vote “no” on that so that they could say, “Well, yes most of the Asia and Africa and Latin America have voted for this Palestinian observer non-member “state” but we have what they would present as a so-called civilized world in their camp and it would be a kind of weird victory for [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu. So, the Palestinians find themselves in a very awkward situation and then of course there is the question of Israeli and American retaliation so it is really a very complicated problem.

Press TV: So, let’s skip over the problem for a second. What would be the benefits of Palestine getting UN recognition as a state?

Ibish: I mean, they couldn’t get membership so we don’t need to be bothered with that [and] that would be the final stage in the creation of a Palestinian state; that would mean Palestine is an independent state forever but that is not going to happen this year.

The benefits to joining as a non-member observer state would be greater privileges and what they are hoping for among many things is that if they were a non-member observer state, they could try to exceed to the stature of Rome and join the assembly of parties of the ICC and then start bringing charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court and other such parties.

Now that is a bit of a long shot even if they got that membership because in their application during the Israeli war on Gaza a couple of years ago, the PA in Ramallah did apply to the stature of Rome, saying that we give you authorization to have jurisdiction over the territories under our control including Gaza meaning please prosecute the Israelis for what they are doing in Gaza, that is basically what it meant.

The ICC received that but they didn’t make a judgment because of two things. First, because of the undetermined nature of Palestinian state with which I don’t think would be resolved by observer state status and also because of the question of the territory which again would not be resolved.

So, I think the advantage would probably be largely symbolic although it would solidify the international consensus that a two state solution is absolutely the only thing the world will accept and they will not accept the occupation and that would be a benefit.

Press TV: [US President Barack] Obama talks of two states but then is clearly going to veto any vote towards that solution. How is that playing in America?

Ibish: This is really a very serious situation for the United States because they will end up as they did with the vote against the settlement activity in February voting against their own policies. In this case, it is pretty simple. They want to protect the American brokered process, the bilateral negotiations brokered by the United States.

They don’t want this process move into the multilateral forum of the United Nations where they would have less control. The problem is that in the end nobody else wants to be a broker. It is not just that the United States is hoarding the process; it is that there are any other candidates…

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Video report can be watched here

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