Palestinians Eager to Parlay UN Vote into Pressure on Israel

With the vote upgrading their status at the United Nations to non-member state less than a week old, the Palestinians are already using the move to escalate their diplomatic campaign against Israel with plans to include the powerful UN Security Council. The US on Wednesday criticized the Palestinian rhetoric, calling it “unhelpful.” The US voted no last week on the Palestinian UN resolution.

The WAFA Palestinian news agency reported that the Palestinian leadership is planning to go to the UN Security Council “in the name of the State of Palestine” to legally force Israel to stop settlement activities.The step comes roughly one year after the Palestinians sought Security Council approval for statehood that the Council effectively shelved due to internal divisions over the matter.

US Spokesman Mark Toner on Wednesday told reporters the US opposes the Palestinian threats. “We need to end this kind of rhetoric and get back to the issue at hand, which is getting back into direct negotiations,” Toner was quoted by the State Department as saying.

The Israelis announced plans to build additional settlement housing in response to the Palestinian actions at the UN last week, making it clear that they would not allow the somewhat symbolic UN status upgrade to predetermine territorial negotiations. Despite the intensification of the Israel-Palestinian diplomatic fight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his desire to resume peace talks soon.

“Israel is committed to a genuine peace with our Palestinian neighbors—a genuine and durable peace,” Netanyahu was quoted by his office as saying. “…We remain committed to a negotiated settlement between us and our Palestinian neighbors. That solution is a two-state solution for two peoples, a peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the one and only Jewish State of Israel.”

Just days after the UN vote and outside of a negotiated settlement with Israel, the Palestinians are already acting as a recognized state despite not controlling recognized territory or having the legal authority of the UN Security Council behind them.

One factor at stake in the Palestinian future plans is concern over whether or not the Palestinians are breaking past commitments such as the Oslo Accords. Israel says the UN vote itself already violated the commitment to resolve the conflict through peace talks. Taking a different approach than accuse the Palestinians of breaching promises, the US has already made clear that the UN vote did not make Palestine a state.

However, the Ma’an News Agency reported that Palestinian Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki is looking at the vote as though it achieved just that. Among the “logistic and administrative procedures” al-Maliki said they are weighing include “the Palestinian passport design, and official correspondence between the state of Palestine and other countries.”

Said the PA official to Ma’an, “We are studying this very deeply to make sure we are not breaching previous commitments.”

However, Israel has made it clear that just going to the UN for statehood recognition already broke those commitments. In his speech to the UN before the vote, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said, “This resolution violates a fundamental binding commitment… It was a commitment that all outstanding issues in the peace process would only be resolved in direct negotiations.”

Prosor’s comments, quoted on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, further noted that the UN resolution “sends a message that the international community is willing to turn a blind eye to peace agreements. For the people of Israel, it raises a simple question: why continue to make painful sacrifices for peace, in exchange for pieces of paper that the other side will not honor?”

Ma’an reported that Al-Maliki also said the situation vis-à-vis European nations, some of whom voted for the UN resolution while others abstained, would be used against Israel. “We will take advantage of the positive positions of countries and try to build an international front to exert pressure” on Israel and its policies, he said, apparently referring to Israeli settlement construction.

One European nation that voted no on the Palestinian UN upgrade is the Czech Republic, where Netanyahu was visiting on Wednesday. Speaking during a visit with Czech Republic Prime Minister Petr Nečas, Netanyahu lamented last week’s UN vote.

“The Palestinians asked the world to give them a state without providing Israel with peace and security in return. The UN resolution completely ignored Israel’s security needs. It didn’t require the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state. It didn’t even call on it to end the conflict with Israel. And this is why it was unacceptable to Israel, and that is why, too, it has been unacceptable to all responsible members of the international community.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, December 5, 2012)