The recent vote in the UN General Assembly recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer status is getting a long look from around the world as an important step towards full Palestinian statehood. Unfortunately, the vote means very little for the Palestinian people. In fact, the push for this vote from the Palestinian Authority and the reactions from Israel demonstrate that the vote is, at best, insignificant – little more than a reminder that two states are no longer possible.
To see how meaningless this vote is, just take a look at Ali Abunimah, above, on Al Jazeera. There is nothing about this UN vote that condemns Israel for continuing the occupation and there is nothing there that will help end the occupation. Being recognized in this way by the UN does nothing to help the situation in Gaza and ignores the issue of Palestinian refugees. The most important aspect of this vote, however, is that it shows just how dead and gone the two state solution is. I have talked about the issue of one vs two states many times over the years – and, fittingly, there has been no improvement in prospects for two states. There are 500,000 illegal Israeli settlers living in the West Bank, including Jerusalem. If the PA were to do the unthinkable and completely give up Jerusalem, there would still be 300,000 settlers on Palestinian land. If land swaps allowed Israel to keep the settlement blocs surrounding Jerusalem, there would still be around 150,000 – 200,000 settlers that would need to be evacuated. Let’s say that 75% (a hilariously high percentage) would leave voluntarily for monetary compensation. There would still be around 40,000 nationalist, hardcore settlers to evacuate. And that is if the PA completely gives in to all of Israel’s demands. In Gaza in 2005, around 8,000 settlers were removed, causing mass protests around Israel. Forcible removal of five times that many from more religiously important land would likely result in much more serious and potentially violent civil unrest.
More important, though, is the Israeli response to the move. Immediately after the UN vote, Netanyahu announced the construction of another 3,000 settler homes in and around Jerusalem – a move that would “signal the end of the two state-solution.” That Israel would use construction of settlement homes as punishment for the PA pursuing a two state strategy (and it certainly was punishment as Israeli officials warned, after the vote, that there would be swift consequences) demonstrates without a doubt that Israel has no desire to make peace with a Palestinian state. Interestingly, if the Palestinian Authority actually had a peace partner that truly supported a two state solution, this week’s vote would have been significant. Unfortunately, though, the only significant factor was a demonstration of just how dead two states are.
For a good view on the role of the US in this disaster, check out MJ Rosenberg