Is the British government about to vote for a Palestinian state?
Published in: Daily Mail
The impending UN General Assembly vote on the declaration of a Palestinian state has little to do with the establishment of anything that bears any relation to reality. Such a state will be a Potemkin polity with no political coherence, fixed shape or legal legitimacy. The unilateral declaration is demonstrably an aggressive stunt and an act of purposeful hostility against Israel. One might indeed say that, if the GA votes in favour of this incendiary gesture, this will effectively be the GA’s declaration of war upon Israel.
There are very real fears that the declaration will be used as the pretext to ignite the Arab world into a fresh campaign of violence against Israel. Already, Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party has urged mass marches in cities ahead of the UN vote. Few can have any confidence in the pro-forma calls for non-violent protests. Far from being a gesture towards peace, this declaration sounds the drumbeat for war. Even if no violence occurs, this unilateral initiative rips up previous treaty undertakings made with Israel by the Palestinian Authority and obviates any possibility of a negotiated settlement of the Middle East impasse.
For that reason, the Obama administration has said it will veto the proposal in the Security Council. And so what will Britain do? Until now, its position has been one of studied refusal to say how it will vote. This coyness was briefly shattered last May by a crude threat made by Prime Minister David Cameron that if Israel didn’t engage in a ‘meaningful peace process with the Palestinians’ – an extraordinary thing to say in itself since it is the Palestinian Authority that is refusing point blank to talk to Israel, which has said it is ready to talk without preconditions -- the more likely it was that Britain would endorse the unilateral declaration of a state of Palestine.
Since then we have heard nothing about the UK government’s intentions. Earlier this week, however, Cameron chose to open up a little more – on Al Jazeera, no less. I have obtained from Downing Street a transcript of this part of his interview with Sir David Frost. This is how it went:
There’s a major issue coming up of course at the UN in a couple of weeks’ time from now, which is obviously Palestinian attempt, passionate attempt to achieve Statehood and so on, and all of the members of the UN will have to vote on that. How will Britain vote on that?
Well obviously we’ll have to see what exact proposition is put forward. But we’ll be guided by some very clear principles. I mean first of all we do support the ambition of the Palestinians to have statehood. I want to see a two state solution. A secure Israel and a State of Palestine. Now it seems to me the key to what happens at the UN is does what is going to be discussed move the peace process ahead? Because at the end of the day it’s not the UN that can confer statehood on the Palestinians. The only way statehood is going to happen is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to sit down and negotiate and agree the terms of the Israeli State and the Palestinian State. That is what has to happen and that is what I think Britain should be -
That’s much more important than the debate at the UN?
So the test for me is does what we’re about to debate and vote on, does that move the peace process ahead? Does it commit the parties to negotiation? Does it mean that we’re going to get closer, not to a state in theory, but a state in practice? That is what needs to happen and Britain will judge whatever comes forward with our allies according to that rule.
So, but it’s quite conceivable in a vital issue like this that UK and US might vote differently? That you might vote yes for Britain and the USA might abstain?
Well we will…
That’s possible isn’t it?
We will judge what comes forward on its merits. On the issue of settlements, Britain and America didn’t vote the same way. I’m very clear that the growth of settlements is unacceptable. It’s making a two state solution more difficult to achieve. It’s altering the facts on the ground. And there have been occasions, Britain and America are very, very strong allies. We work together on so many things. In this job you really see the benefits of the huge cooperation and the work that we do. But on this issue there have been times when we’ve voted in different ways, particularly on the settlement issue, and Britain will always do what it thinks is right.
The first half of this exchange seemed to suggest that Cameron was leaning towards the US position. But his statement that he would not make up his mind how to vote until he saw the small print prompted Frost to suggest that the UK might break with America. Cameron chose not to refute this suggestion; and the last part of this exchange suggested that the UK would indeed vote for the unilateral declaration.
So at the end of all this, we are left none the wiser about what the UK will actually do. But the fact that the British government is even now -- with a week to go before the General Assembly session opens -- refusing to condemn this cynical stunt is deeply shocking in itself.
First, it means the UK is contemplating supporting an initiative that tears up binding treaty obligations and thus makes a mockery of international law.
Second, given that the vote is already being used to whip up mob hysteria against Israel on its borders, the British government’s refusal to condemn this initiative – or worse still, if it actually supports it -- risks making the UK an accessory to any violence that this vote may bring in its train.
Third, Cameron is considering endorsing the creation of a racist state which is committed to the eradication of its neighbour. For Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said he will never accept Israel as a Jewish state – the actual casus belli of the Arab war against Israel. He has thus declared in effect that the war against Israel will continue. Last month Nabil Sha’ath, head of foreign relations for Fatah, declared that the Palestinians would never accept two states and that the establishment of a state of Palestine would enable them to pressurise Israel to pack up and leave. A state of Palestine must therefore be considered to be an intrinsically belligerent entity that poses a direct threat to innocent Israeli lives.
Moreover, Abbas has also said repeatedly that not one Israeli will be permitted to live in this state of Palestine (as well as no Jewish soldiers in any NATO troops stationed there). Yesterday the Palestinian Liberation Organisation's 'ambassador' to the US stated that no Jews would live in the Palestinian state. That is why the Israeli ‘settlers’ living beyond the 1948 cease-fire lines are deemed to be the obstacle to such a state – because it will be ethnically cleansed of every single Jew.
The Prime Minister should be asked in the House of Commons just why the British government is so gung-ho for a racist Palestinian state ethnically cleansed of Jews, led by a Holocaust-denier and committed to the destruction of the Jews’ national homeland – and why it is even considering endorsing the repudiation of international law to bring it about.