IT may be “unfortunate” for America and “meaningless” for Israel, but an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly’s members voiced the feeling of people across the globe when they voted on Thursday to grant Palestine the status of a “non-member observer state”. The vote takes the Palestinian people a step closer to their ultimate aim of having a sovereign state of their own on their native soil. President Mahmoud Abbas called the vote “a birth certificate” for the Palestinian state and said the UN move was the “last chance to save the two-state solution”. Already, more than 130 states recognise Palestine as a sovereign entity; Thursday’s 138 yes votes and only nine nays (with 41 abstentions) show that more states have swung to the Palestinian cause and rejected the Israeli stance that seeks to perpetuate Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. The vote also shows the diplomatic isolation of Israel and America — the two principal opponents of the move. Thursday’s vote also means Palestine will be able to join the UN’s specialised agencies, including what America is seen to dislike most — Palestine’s membership of the International Criminal Court.
While Palestinians have hailed their diplomatic victory, they and their supporters will have to reckon with Israeli intransigence, America’s unqualified support for the Jewish state, continued settlement activity in the West Bank and Israel’s arrogance stemming from its armed might. In fact, Israel’s UN ambassador clearly indicated the future course of the Likud government’s policy when he said the vote would put the peace process “backwards”, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked Mr Abbas, alleging that his UN speech did not contain “the words of a man of peace”. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, like the American and Israeli ambassadors, called for direct talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel to achieve peace, forgetting perhaps that Israel has torpedoed every peace plan, including the ones to which it is party. Palestine’s diplomatic victory at the UN has embarrassed Israel and America, but they have no choice except to bow to reality, for the Palestinian people have a strong case based on history.