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The number of UN member states extending diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine has now risen to 131, leaving only 62 UN member states on the wrong side of history and humanity.
If one ignores small island states in the Caribbean and the Pacific, almost all of the non-recognizers are Western states, including all five of the settler-colonial states founded on the ethnic cleansing or genocide of indigenous populations and all eight of the former European colonial powers.
It appears that the current American strategy to defeat the State of Palestine’s UN membership application is to try to deprive Palestine of the required nine affirmative votes in the Security Council by convincing all five European members (including Bosnia & Herzegovina, which has recognized the State of Palestine) and Colombia (the only South American state which has not recognized the State of Palestine) to abstain, leaving only eight affirmative votes and thus making America’s lone negative vote not technically a “veto”.
Even though everyone knows that the Security Council would approve Palestinian membership unanimously if the United States announced its support, the explanation and expectation behind this strategy is, apparently, that, in the absence of a “veto”, no one would notice America’s fingerprints all over this result, no one (notably in the Arab and Muslim worlds) would be outraged by America’s blocking of Palestine’s membership application and Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues would crawl back into the hamster cage from which they have so recently and dramatically escaped, duly chastened and docile, and resume running mindlessly on the Israeli-American exercise wheel.
This is not simply a breathtakingly naïve strategy but an extraordinarily dangerous one — and not only because the Ramallah leadership, having experienced enlightenment and a spine transplant, has also recovered its self-respect and human dignity and will not be crawling back into its cage.
An American veto would be neither a big deal nor a bad thing. It would unequivocally confirm the sad and humiliating reality, now almost universally recognized, that the United States of America is enslaved to Israel, paying tribute and taking orders. By doing so, an American veto would definitively disqualify the United States from playing any significant role in any genuine Middle East “peace process” which would replace the fraudulent one which the United States has been controlling and manipulating on Israel’s behalf for the past 20 years and, thereby, would finally give peace a chance.
Indeed, since state observer status would confer on the State of Palestine virtually all the same benefits as member state status (most importantly, right of access to the International Criminal Court, where it could sue Israelis for war crimes, including settlement building, and crimes against humanity), an American veto in the Security Council followed by an upgrade to state observer status by the General Assembly might actually be the most constructive possible result for Palestine — even better than full UN membership with American acquiescence but with the United States maintaining its monopoly stranglehold on any “peace process”.
One might then realistically hope that the new emerging international force, the “BRICS” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — all current members of the Security Council which have recognized the State of Palestine and are on record as planning to vote for Palestinian membership), and the European Union could jointly mobilize the true international community behind a genuine and urgent effort to actually achieve peace with some measure of justice.
On the other hand, America’s unanimous European abstention strategy, if successful, would have catastrophic consequences. While the Arab and Muslim worlds have learned to expect the worst from the United States, they have, at least until now, maintained some hope that Europe is not their enemy. If Palestine’s membership application were to be defeated by a united Western front, the world would be confronted by a fundamental clash of the “West against the Rest”, resurrecting memories of the most arrogant and contemptuous periods of Western imperialism and colonialism and confirming the belief, already widespread in the Arab and Muslim worlds, that the Judeo-Christian world is at war with the Muslim world.
Of course, it is within the power of one man to prevent this ugly scenario from playing out. Are the prospects of a few more votes for himself and less campaign money for his eventual Republican opponent really more important to America’s multi-racial president than preventing a long-running clash of civilizations, cultures, races and religions and permitting — indeed, promoting — progress toward a more peaceful, just and harmonious world?
The world should find out in the coming weeks.
John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.