No 625 Posted by fw, November 30, 2012
“This was a referendum on the United States’ mediation of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians… The vast majority of the world, I think, said yesterday that that has failed, and it’s time for a different approach…what the United States and other parties around the world need to do is realize that they can incentivize the Palestinians towards a strategy that is in everybody’s interest. Clearly, uneven negotiations have not been successful. And so, we need to incentivize Palestinians in a direction that is towards their liberation and not towards the continued colonization of their territory.” —Yousef Munayyer
In the embedded 16-minute Democracy Now video interview below, Yousef Munayyer discusses the significance of the UN approval of Palestine. My abridged transcript with added subheadings follows the video. To watch the interview on the Democracy Now website and access the full transcript, click on the linked title. Yousef Munayyer is the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, the Palestine Center.
(Unless otherwise noted, the speaker is Yousef Munayyer)
Juan González — We begin today’s show with Thursday’s vote in the United Nations General Assembly to recognize the sovereign state of Palestine. The vote represents a long-sought victory for Palestinians but a diplomatic setback for the United States and Israel, who were joined by only a handful of countries in opposing the decision to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s observer status from an “entity” to a “non-member state.” With over 190 members in the General Assembly, there were 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions. Three countries did not partake in the vote. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the world body to issue its long overdue “birth certificate.”
“This was a referendum on the United States’ mediation of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians … and the vast majority of the world said that that has failed”
Look, there is still an occupation of Palestine. The colonization of Palestinian territory continues. It continues today just as it was yesterday. So that has not changed. What I think is important, though, is that the United States and Israel and very, very few people, very few states who voted against this, are really isolated now internationally. And I think that was the important symbolism of this vote yesterday, is that this was a referendum on the United States’ mediation of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, and the vast majority of the world, I think, said yesterday that that has failed, and it’s time for a different approach.
If the Israelis are not guilty of war crimes, as they claim, they should not be concerned about Palestinians going to the International Criminal Court with war crime allegations
I don’t understand what the reason to be concerned is. If the Israelis are in fact not guilty of war crimes, they should not have a problem defending themselves before any international body. And so, I don’t think that that should be a problem.
The US and Israelis are more concerned about the Palestinians now having the option to go to the ICC thus removing US control over the mediation process
I think the reason the United States and the Israelis are so upset about the Palestinians having the opportunity to go in that direction—not going in that direction, but just having the opportunity to go in that direction—is that it takes them outside of a process that has been mediated by the United States, wherein Israel has been able to have their way with the Palestinians and have the United States in their corner the entire time. And so, of course, the United States and Israel are very frustrated by this, not because there’s anything really wrong with being able to use those international forums for justice, but because it takes the ball out of the court of the United States and Israel where U.S. mediation gives Israel a distinct advantage.
Israel UN ambassador, Ron Prosor’s assertion that progress towards peace must come through direct negotiations is a farce given Israel’s use of the peace process as a cover to colonize Palestinian territory
[Prosor] made the statement that…any progress has to come through negotiations. The problem is, negotiations have a track record. The reality is, in the past 20 years of negotiations mediated by the United States since the Madrid Conference in 1991, we have seen only continued and aggressive Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory. The average number of settler population growth from 1967 to 1991 was about 8,000 settlers a year. During the peace process years, that number increased to over 20,000 settlers a year. So, the peace process only acted as a cover, an international cover, for Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory.
The overwhelming “Yes” vote in the UN “shows how isolated the United States is in their approach of defending the Israelis, right or wrong”
And so, it’s very easy to say, “We invite the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.” The question is, why on earth would the Palestinians ever want to go back to a negotiating table like that? If there’s going to be discussions based on international law, based on meeting actual obligations, based on evenhanded mediation, in that case, then you can talk about having serious negotiations. But the negotiations that we’ve seen for the past 20 years have been a farce and have only acted to allow Israel to continue to occupy and colonize Palestinian territory. I think what we saw yesterday was the Palestinians making the argument that those negotiations have been a farce, and the vast majority of the world agreeing with them. And I think that the few “no” votes that we’ve seen, including the United States, Israel, a couple other countries and a few Pacific islands, shows how isolated the United States is in their approach of defending the Israelis, right or wrong.
The reaction from the US ambassador to the UN and from the US Secretary of State underscores the Palestinian’s point that the US is incapable of being an evenhanded mediator
Look, I think, you know, the secretary of state’s reaction, you know, the reaction from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, yesterday, all of them really underscore the Palestinians’ point in this argument, that the United States is simply incapable of being an evenhanded mediator. The United States reacted more harshly yesterday and with stronger condemnation for the action of a completely nonviolent diplomatic move in the United Nations, that was as multilateral as it can get, than they do to the continued settlement expansion in Palestinian territory, which is as unilateral as you can get and as much of a move that undermines the viability of a Palestinian state as could possibly be. So I think it really underscores exactly why the U.S. is incapable of mediating this conflict.
US domestic politics make it very difficult for anyone with political ambitions to be evenhanded about this issue
Domestic politics in the United States make it very difficult for anyone with political ambitions to be evenhanded about this issue. And you know what? Palestinians get that. We understand that the United States has its politics, as every country does, and that’s fine. That’s for the United States to figure out what’s best for them. But you know what? If that’s going to be the case, if that’s the way that the United States is, and if it is so incapable of being an evenhanded mediator, fine. Don’t stand in the way of the rest of the world, though, with persistent vetoes in the United Nations Security Council, preventing anyone else from doing anything.
This vote was in the General Assembly where the US could not use its veto as it has done repeatedly in the Security Council
What changed this time is that the United States couldn’t use their veto, because this is not a U.N. Security Council vote. I think that that’s the biggest change here. This is a vote in the United Nations General Assembly, which is based on a—you know, a more democratic vote-counting system where no one party can torpedo the outcome in the way that the United States has been able to do on not just Palestinian statehood, but a variety of U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Palestine over—over past decades. Over the past 30 years or so, there have been more than 40 U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli actions, in which the United States has been the single, solitary “no” vote in the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. has used its position in the United Nations Security Council to prevent any international action and to corner the peace process for itself, which, again, it has proved it cannot evenhandedly mediate.
What the US, Israel and Canada need to do now is change their tactics and incentivize Palestinians towards their liberation, not their colonization
Regarding your—your other point about—your other question about, you know, what status is this, this is a minor change of status for Palestine within the United Nations. There have been a number of different states that have had this status and have eventually moved to full recognition as member states in the past. Right now, it does not change anything, really, on the ground for the Palestinians, but affords them some opportunities to redress grievances in other international institutions, like the International court—Criminal Court, and so on.
But the important thing, moving forward, is, what is this going to mean for people on the ground? And here’s the really important possible outcome here. This is the strategy of some Palestinian leaders, particularly in the PLO, the Fatah-led camp in the West Bank. The strategy of other leaders who believe in armed struggle was on display in recent weeks in what we saw in Gaza. A third camp among Palestinians, which I think overlaps the other two, which is Palestinian civil society, they have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel for their continued occupation of Palestine. And so, all of them agree that there need to be costs imposed on the Israelis to change the situation, to change the status quo. And now it’s a question of which strategy is going to be the most effective. And I think what the United States and other parties around the world need to do is realize that they can incentivize the Palestinians towards a strategy that is in everybody’s interest. Clearly, uneven negotiations have not been successful. And so, we need to incentivize Palestinians in a direction that is towards their liberation and not towards the continued colonization of their territory.