Israel’s shortsightedness is by now legendary. In the very near future it is going to have to come to terms with a viable two-state solution to the endless conflict between it and Palestine. Two groups of people who have endured unconcealed hostility for decades will have to live side-by-side in some semblance of trust in order to build a sustainable future.
Faced with that reality a reasonable person might expect Israel to adopt conciliatory positions; to review its openly aggressive stance towards anyone remotely sympathetic to the Palestinian cause; to reconsider its ill-advised sanction of land-grabbers and settlers. Taking action to appease the grievances of the Palestinians would restore a measure of dignity and go some way towards regaining the moral high ground.
But no. In retaliation for Palestine gaining non-member observer status at the United Nations, a body dedicated – given its various limitations – to ensuring peace and security, Israel has authorized the construction of 3,000 more housing units in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It is also fast-tracking the processing of 1,000 planning permissions.
Apparently some of the new settler units will be built between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim, a move strongly opposed by the Palestinians, who say the development will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this as it disputes all manner of legalities that get in the way of its policies.
Before the UN vote took place, the Israeli foreign ministry described the Palestinian push for the vote as “crossing a red line that will require the harshest Israeli response.” And an Israeli government spokesman described the vote itself as “negative political theatre” that would “hurt peace”.
In an act that many see as honourable, the UN General Assembly voted by 138-9 to accord Palestine non-member observer status, with 41 states abstaining .The vote was immediately condemned by a purse-lipped Hillary Clinton as “unfortunate and counterproductive”. No one asked who it was unfortunate and counterproductive for.
“We have been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace they both deserve: two states for two people with a sovereign, viable independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel,” Clinton said in a speech in Washington on foreign policy trends. She failed to explain how and why non-member observer status of the UN was in conflict with direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Mendacious geopolitics writ large.
The UN’s affirmative decision means that Palestine joins the Holy See as a non-member state and can now take part in UN debates but without the right to vote. A clear step forward to which Israel is blind.