UN Vote on Palestine's State Status: An Analysis

by John V. Whitbeck on 30-11-2012

The UN General Assembly has now voted, by 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize the existence as a state �of the State of Palestine on the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967�.

The Palestinian flag

The UN General Assembly has now voted, by 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize the existence as a state “of the State of Palestine on the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967”. 

The "no" votes were cast by Israel, the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama.

The Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau, all former components of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, are “freely associated states” of the United States, with U.S. zip/postal codes and “Compacts of Free Association” which require them to be guided by the United States in their foreign relations. They more closely resemble territories of the United States than genuine sovereign states – rather like the Cook Islands and Niue, “freely associated states” of New Zealand which make no claim to sovereign statehood and are not UN member states. They snuck into the UN in the flood of new members consequent upon the dissolutions of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, when the previous standards for admission were effectively ignored.

Nauru, a tiny island of 10,000 people in the central Pacific, has, since the exhaustion of the phosphate deposits which briefly made it the country with the world’s highest per capital income, had virtually no sources of income other than selling its UN votes (reliably joining the United States in voting against Palestine) and diplomatic recognitions (alone in joining Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela in recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia) and housing in insalubrious tents aspiring illegal immigrants hoping to reaching Australia. I cannot begrudge Nauru. I have been there. It is an an appalling place, an island with no beaches, the world’s highest obesity rate and no real alternative to diplomatic prostitution.

Accordingly, only three “real” states joined Israel and the United States in voting against Palestine and the two-state solution: Canada, the Czech Republic and Panama. They must make their own excuses.

In population terms, the opponents of Palestine represent approximately 5% of the world’s population – 370 million out out over 7 billion – and, of those, the United States accounts for 314 million. It follows that countries with less than one percent of the world’s population supported the United States in today’s vote.

The 41 nations abstaining in today's vote were Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Congo (DRC), Croatia, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Togo, Tonga, the United Kingdom and Vanuatu.

It is worth noting (and a bit puzzling) that 15 of these countries (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Congo (DRC), Hungary, Malawi, Mongolia, Montenegro, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Togo and Vanuatu) have extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine, although most of the formerly communist states of eastern Europe did so when they had communist governments.

They have been more than balanced out by the 28 states which have not yet recognized the State of Palestine but which voted in favor of Palestine (or did note vote – I do not yet know which five UN member states failed to vote): Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Eritrea, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago and Tuvalu.

The European Union vote was 14 “yes”, 1 “no” and 12 abstentions. Aside from Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, all the states of what Donald Rumsefeld called “Old Europe” voted for Palestine while all nine of the states of what Donald Rumsfeld called “New Europe” (the Baltic states and the former members of the Warsaw Pact) abstained or (in the sole case of the Czech Republic) voted against Palestine. I wrote in one of my messages on Tuesday that these are states “which have passed from domination by one empire to domination by another empire without ever daring to truly assert their independence”. That may have bit a bit harsh. All except the Czech Republic have at least dared to abstain.

It may take some time for the results of this vote to be fully digested. In the best of all possible worlds, one might hope that the United States would finally recognize that, on the issue of Palestine, it is totally divorced and isolated from the moral and ethical conscience of mankind, should stop blocking progress toward peace with some measure of justice and should now step aside and permit other states with a genuine interest in actually achieving peace with some measure of justice to take the lead in helping Israelis and Palestinians to achieve it.

Since we do not live in the best of all possible worlds, other states will probably need to make clear to the United States that its vote today has definitively disqualified it from any further role in the pursuit of peace with some measure of justice in Israel/Palestine and that its further involvement in the preeminent moral issue facing the international community is no longer needed or wanted.


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