With the Palestinian statehood resolution vote a mere few days away (the U.N.General Assembly convenes on September 19th), the U.S. has increased its pressure on the Palestinians and member nations in hopes of blocking the resolution. Specifically, the U.S. has reaffirmed its vow to veto any resolution recognizing the Palestinian state and has asked President Abbas to withdraw the resolution and instead pursue renewed peace negotiations with Israel; to which Abbas essentially responded “too little too late.” As well, the U.S. has announced that it will cut aid to the Palestinian Authority if it continues forward with the resolution. Despite this pressure from the U.S., signs point to the Palestinians going forward with the resolution irregardless of subsequent consequences to the peace process.
The Palestinian statehood resolution would need approval of the Security Council and a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly in order to pass. However, a veto by the U.S. would make satisfying those requirements impossible. Nevertheless, the resolution can possibly bypass a U.S. veto and the Security Council and go directly before the General Assembly by means of Resolution 377, which was passed during the Korean War in order to “get around” a Security Council who “…because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security….” The IntLawGrrls blog pointed out last Thursday that in an Advisory Opinion published before the passing of Resolution 377 the ICJ noted that the General Assembly alone cannot effect a decision regarding admission of a state to membership in the United Nations, when the Security Council has made no recommendation for admission. However, the blog also pointed out that the advisory opinion was premised on the fact that the General Assembly does not have the power to change the meaning of a vote of the Security Council. And, history has shown us that the General Assembly does in fact have such power, though it has never been exercised with respect to a statehood resolution.
Moreover, even if Resolution 377 cannot be used to pass the statehood resolution, the General Assembly can, without the approval of the Security Council, pass a resolution to recognize the Palestinian state under non-member observer status. This vote needs only a simple majority to pass, which, at this point in time, seems like an easy burden to overcome for the Palestinians.
Consequently, the Palestinians continue to assert that they will bring the resolution in front of the U.N. later this month. But, if the resolution is in fact brought before the U.N., the Palestinians and the peace process in general will ultimately suffer. The resolution represents a lack of deference and respect for the possibility of peace via negotiations. And, if Israelis and Palestinians lack faith in the possibility of peace via negotiations, both will likely enact unilateral, militaristic measures in the future rather than joint, peaceful measures to resolve the conflict. The statehood resolution comes at a time when the last peace discussions between Israel and Palestine were just over a year ago, and lasted only two weeks. In such a context, the resolution clearly represents a lack of faith in the possibility of peace via negotiation. If brought before the U.N., the resolution will not help resolve the conflict, but rather, further enflame the partisan ideologies of both Palestinians and Israelis.
Because the resolution cuts against the possibility of an ultimately peaceful solution to the Palestinian statehood issue, the U.S. should continue to do all that it can to stop the resolution from going before the U.N. in any form. Risk of international alienation does not outweigh the costs associated with hindering the peace process.