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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Journées historiques aux Nations unies

by Pierre Barbancey

History in the Making at the United Nations

Translated Saturday 1 December 2012, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Derek Hanson

The General Assembly of the United Nations
will make Palestine a non-member observer state.
A victory for the Palestinian people, who can now
demand to live within the frontiers established in 1967,
with East Jerusalem as capitol.

Without a doubt, this weekend is an historical moment
for the Palestinian people, and, moreover, for those who hold
justice and the law in their hearts. Sixty-five years after this
same Assembly of nations decided upon the partition of the Palestinian mandate,
a partition unequal from many points of view,
a State of Palestine will make its entry into the international community.

It will no longer be a simple "entity", as it has been up until now, but
effectively a non-member observer state. This is a sizeable difference.
While the vote that will take place today or tomorrow is assured (more than 130
states have already announced their intention to approve the Palestinian
request), it is difficult adequately to congratulate France (a permanent member
of the UN Security Council) for the announcement of her decision, which
surely permitted other members of the European Union to follow suit.
This was the case for Spain, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Austria. Portugal may
do the same, as well as Ireland.

Germany, however, has let it be known that
it will not give its approval. As for Great Britain, it was saying "We are open to the
idea of voting in favor of the resolution if we see that the Palestinians will
provide public guarantees" on several issues, notably their immediate and unconditional return to the negotiation table for the creation of a Palestinian state.

This European vote, though not determinant (a majority vote being sufficient) is nevertheless essential for the future. This admission of Palestine as a non-member observer, while it marks non-negligeable progress beyond the insupportable status quo, is evidently not an end in itself.

Everyone knows this well, including the Israeli government. The latter has done everything in its power to avoid such a vote at the United Nations. Despite this, its reaction was mild on the eve of Assembly session. Because Tel-Aviv had to recognise having received from the Europeans
a sizeable counter-weight: an unconditional reopening of negotiations and increased pressure on the Palestinians not to take its case to the International Criminal Court of Justice [1]. "Unconditional", that is, refusing the Palestinian demand for a cessation of colonization prior to any peace discussions.

France will try to use its influence for a peaceful solution.

This is the sugar coating that Laurent Fabius added. Both concerning the International Court of Justice — "If one wishes to move toward negotiation and to find a solution (for peace in the Near East)
it is evident that one must not introduce such and such an element that will create difficulties for the overall affair", he said on France-Inter radio — and concerning the colonization. He admitted that "there must be no gesture that blocks this negotiation, in particular, the extension of colonization,"
but what have Frence and the European Union done for years already to put an end to this? Nothing!
Not even a threat of sanctions or a suspension of associative agreements. On the contrary, the status of Israel has been reinforced despite Chapter 2 of the agreements relative to the respect of human rights. Under these conditions, with Netanyahou ready to get himself re-elected, surrounded by elements of the most extreme far right (notably with representatives of the colonizers), it is difficult to
envision any change in Israeli positions without constraint.

Already some weeks ago, the French position was uncertain. The mobilization of public opinion and
of elected officials of all sorts surely pushed the government toward a favorable decision. This is proof that it is possible to influence foreign policy. "We must manage to reach a convergence of points of view, and France, a friend of both Israel and of the Palestinians, must have its say, and must weigh in for a peaceful solution", repeated Fabius. It must accompany this move in a political and judicial framework that will not be satisfied with the perpetual violation of international law, without resorting to any sanctions. To bring an end to colonization is to permit the respect of international resolutions (194,242, … 338) in order for the State of Palestine, the flag of which will adorn the glass house in New York, really to exist within the frontiers defined in 1967, with East Jerusalem as capitol.

[1On these questions, and on the new fields of action open to Palestine on the international scene, see this related article.

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