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Palestine Granted UN Observer State Status

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Cross-posted from Wallwritings

History may well record what happened on November 29, 2012, as Mahmoud Abbas' "finest hour."

This was the day the Palestinian Authority president (above)  announced to the world that he would no longer bow to blackmail from the West.

A familiar political threat by Israel to withhold tax funds due the Authority, did not deter him. Nor was he moved by the insulting British tactic that a pledge not to haul Israel before the world's criminal court, would buy the Crown's yes vote.

The U.S. State Department's most recent contribution to the effort to force Abbas back onto the US-Israeli reservation, was both naive and arrogant. Bill Burns, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, was sent on a last-ditch begging mission to Mahmoud Abbas' New York hotel room to persuade the PA president to "reconsider" his request for statehood status.

Abbas ignored them all. As a result of President Abbas' persistence, the resolution passed, granting Palestine a "non member observer state" status in the United Nations. The word "state" in that resolution is huge. It opens doors for Palestine and it represents a step up into international status which is, as of 11/29/12, 65 years overdue.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) approved the Palestinian resolution by an overwhelming majority, 138 in support with only 9 in opposition. There were 41 abstentions. At present, the Vatican is the only other state that carries the designation of a "non member observer state status." Switzerland held the status in 2002, prior to its achieving full membership.

President Abbas made his case for an upgraded status to the UN General Assembly. He delivered a passionate speech in which he centered on a theme he reiterated throughout his speech, "that is why we are here." Thursday night, the UNGA continued in session. Until adjournment Thursday, live proceedings may be accessed here. Later this same web address  will have the proceedings in its archive.

In his address, Abbas noted: "Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel."

President Abbas added, "The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine."

Reporting from the UN, the BBC's Barbara Plett pointed out that Palestine's new status as a non-member observer state, will allow the Palestinians to participate in debates at the UN and also open the way for Palestine to become members of other UN agencies, including bodies like the International Criminal Court.

Speaking in favor of the resolution, Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu (above, left), urged the GA members to support the resolution and then work to admit Palestine to the UN as a full member. Last year, President Abbas had asked the UN Security Council to admit the Palestinians as a member state, but that request was blocked by the U.S., which holds a veto on the Security Council, the UN governing body with the authority to admit new members.

Fearful of any Palestinian status advancement, Israel had been waging an intense campaign against the resolution that passed Thursday. As the voting day approached, Israel fell back on a strategy intended to put pressure on members of the European Union, calling on them to form a "moral majority" on Israel's behalf.

In an email he sent following the vote, Francis A. Boyle, Professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, suggested, "This can be the start of a "Legal Intifadah' by Palestine against Israel." Boyle is the author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law.   According to Boyle, Thursday's vote opens the way for Palestine to:

1. Join the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and file a complaint with the ICC against the illegal settlements and settlers, who are committing war crimes; 

2. Join the Statute for the International Court of Justice, sue Israel at the World Court, and break the illegal siege of Gaza;

3. Join the Law of the Sea Convention and get its fair share of the enormous gas fields lying off the coast of Gaza, thus becoming economically self-sufficient;

4. Become a High Contracting Party to the Four Geneva Conventions [this deals with the laws of war];

5. Join the International Civil Aviation Organization and gain sovereign, legal control over its own airspace;

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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