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28 November 2012
PALESTINE, THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE BALFOUR DECLARATION
Tomorrow Thursday 29 November 2012 the United Nations General Assembly will be asked to vote on a request from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) that Palestine be recognised as a UN “non-member observer state”.
This is a step up from Palestine’s present UN status as a “permanent observer” and represents a symbolic move in the direction of full UN membership as an independent state.
According the BBC website today, a “yes” vote would also have a practical diplomatic effect as it would allow the Palestinians to participate in debates at the UN and improve their chances of joining UN agencies.
Israel is opposed to the UN move as it rightly fears, inter alia, that it will give the Palestinians greater international clout when dealing with Israel. Israel would naturally prefer that the Palestinians negotiate with it from as weak a position as possible.
The United States, as ever, is backing Israel up to the hilt.
However, the motion is certain to pass since 132 UN member states, out of a total of 193, already recognize Palestine as a sovereign state.
According to the BBC, Britain will abstain rather than back the motion unless it receives assurances from the Palestinians that they would:
1. seek negotiations with Israel “without pre-conditions” [This would require the Palestinians to lift their key demand that Israel freeze the construction of settlements in the West Bank as a pre-condition to the start of negotiations], and
2. not apply for membership of International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague [According to today’s London Guardian, Britain is afraid that the PLO may use the court to pursue Israel for war crimes].
The PLO has flatly rejected Britain’s demands.
A short discussion took place in the UK House of Lords today 28 November 2012 to mark the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The declaration took the form of a letter dated 2 November 1917 from UK Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Walter Rothschild (2nd Baron Rothschild), a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. The full text is as follows:
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
In the discussion in the House of Lords today, Baroness Jenny Tonge, an independent peeress, claimed that the Palestinians had been “totally betrayed” by successive British governments. She added: “By making our government’s support for the UN bid conditional on Palestine not pursuing Israel through the ICC, is the government not admitting Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank and is seeking impunity for that country?”
However, according to the BBC, Labour peer Baron Leslie Turnberg said he thought the UN application [by the PLO] was “more of a distraction than a help” in respect of efforts for peace.
Even before Britain sought to make its support for the UN motion conditional on various PLO assurances, it will have already known through diplomatic channels that these preconditions were unacceptable to the Palestinians. It insisted on publicly demanding the assurances, nonetheless, as a pretext for its decision, already taken in line with US and Israeli wishes, not to support the motion.
Hence, tomorrow Thursday 29 November 2012 we can expect Britain to abstain on the vote to grant Palestine recognition as a UN “non-member observer state” the very day after its Foreign Secretary William Hague told the UK House of Commons of Britain’s “strong support for the principle of Palestinian statehood”.
It is not for nothing that over the ages Britain has acquired the unflattering epithet of “perfidious Albion”.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.