The end of 2014 saw an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to secure a United Nations Security Council Resolution setting a date both for the end of negotiations and an end of occupation fail to secure the necessary number of votes. In fact the PA knew that even if the nine votes in favour had been secured, the U.S. would have wielded its notoriously Israel-supporting Veto.
Much has been written since the vote on 30 December. Most of the commentary has questioned both the content of the resolution and the timing. Why and why now? The ‘why now’ question is particularly pertinent bearing in mind the forthcoming Israeli elections in March and the rotation of members of the Security Council. The argument is that some non-supportive members were due to be replaced by more supportive members that may have delivered the necessary nine positive votes. In fact Jordan, via its representative expressed surprise at Palestine’s haste in tabling the resolution before the end of 2014.
The Americans were pressing for a delay in tabling the resolution till after the Israeli elections.
In a surprising move, the PA not only stuck to their guns on forcing a vote as they had promised, but then took the next step they had promised of joining eighteen international conventions and bodies, including the Rome Statutes, the first step on the road to the International Criminal Court on 31 December.
It is impossible to explain the timing of the resolution, except that it is what PA President Abbas promised would happen if the nine-month US sponsored talks with Israel failed. He also promised to join more UN bodies including the ICC. He has therefore fulfilled his promise.
Both Israel and the U.S. were pre warned, but instead of moving towards peace within the negotiations, Israel attacked Gaza for fifty one days soon after their collapse. The U.S. played a watching game and supported Israel’s war on Gaza both politically and militarily through opening its weapons stock to Israel.
It is completely reasonable for the PA to have tried the Security Council path to ending a 47-year occupation and to have given three years for this to happen. It has spent the last twenty one years negotiating but the negotiations have spectacularly failed and unless there is a fundamental change to the framework they will remain futile.
It is also true that the contents of the resolution are in line with International Law and current US Policy, except for the setting of a timeline. Any project needs a timeline, otherwise it is impossible to measure progress and to introduce corrections along the way. The U.S., the birthplace of project management knows this. The lack of a timeline has been used by Israel to build settlements while the PA behaved impeccably taking almost no significant unilateral actions.
The PA first hit a brick wall with futile negotiations then a second brick wall with the Security Council, is now trying a legal path. The ICC path will not be easy but I am certain that behind closed doors a few Israeli bowels moved last night when Abbas publicly signed the application to join the ICC. Human rights organisations have been waiting for this opportunity with cases ready to be presented to the Court. It is important a number are put as soon as the PA is able to do so.
The claim by Israeli spokesmen that the PA has more to fear from the ICC than Israel will soon be tested. They have argued that one of the reasons the PA should be fearful is the Government of National unity formed ‘with Hamas’. The fact is that it was not. It is a Government of technocrats with no party affiliations.
As Abbas said before signing the applications to join UN bodies, “we tried talking, we went to the UN but neither delivered on our rights. What are we to do?”
I do not subscribe to the view that the UNSC resolution bid was a waste of time. The move and the process had many flaws but it has been a game changer as Palestinians regained some of the initiative.
Israel felt it won a victory by scuppering the Palestinian resolution to the Security Council. I believe that had this resolution passed, there would have been a step change in the air. Israelis would have started to watch a clock tick. They would have considered their choices at the elections on the basis of a shift away from the status quo. They would have challenged potential representatives about their stand. Yes, they may have chosen more extreme options but they can now vote for the status quo. This is disastrous for them and the Palestinians.
As the new year beds in, it will be a turbulent one in the Palestine / Israel injustice. The U.S. and Israel will move to punish the Palestinians, withholding funds and creating new facts on the ground. Israel will cross new redlines. It will build more settlements and the EU in particular, will impose sanctions ( not presented as sanctions). More state recognitions of Palestine will result in more Ambassadors being summoned to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Palestinian unity and Gaza reconstruction will stutter along. There will be more violence on the ground and more attacks on Gaza. A more extreme settler Government will be elected in Israel led by Netanyahu.
Israel will feel more like a pariah state than it has and this may encourage more Israelis to question their future. More will leave, tired of the status quo leaving behind the more extreme settlers and settler supporters. Israelis will have given Netanyahu more time to complete their isolation.
Palestinians will face more hardship and they may rise up against the PA for failing to pay salaries. Resistance in Jerusalem will continue as Israel treats Palestinians there with more brutality.
The main ray of hope for Palestinians will be an escalation of the BDS movement and possibly the first charges filed against Israelis at the ICC.