Another missed chance for US

Palestinian protesters in Gaza hold up banners attacking the PA (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
Palestinian protesters in Gaza hold up banners attacking the PA (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

Such a small gesture and such a missed opportunity. With a raise of her hand, America’s UN ambassador prevented consideration of a Palestinian resolution demanding an end to Israel’s decades-long occupation, the longest occupation of the modern era.

Not that it mattered. Such is the way the United Nations works that power is always tilted away from the majority of nations towards a minority of five. Even had the resolution progressed, the US, which wields a veto, would have torpedoed it. Yet again, the failures of US foreign policy and a broken UN collide.

First the good news. The idea that public and political sentiment is moving against Israel is unarguable. Three of the five permanent members of the UN – Russia, China and France – voted for the resolution, with a fourth, the UK, abstaining. As with the end of apartheid in South Africa, it is becoming harder to be associated with a toxic Israeli regime.

At the same time, however, that shift in sentiment has had only slight consequences. The Palestinian cause does not “move the needle” of public protest and public attention in the way that South Africa did throughout the 1980s. The views of the public (outside of the US) are broadly pro-Palestinian, but it is a general, unfocused view.

What remains? If ordinary Palestinians are to be offered hope and shun violence means, there must be a political process. Israel offers none. In two weeks, Mahmoud Abbas will have been president for 10 years. He has been as accommodating as possible of Israel’s demands, even maintaining the occupier’s security at the expense of his own people. And yet the West Bank has nothing to show for it. It may be marginally better than life in Gaza, but not by much. Nor has Israel responded to the Arab Peace Initiative, the most comprehensive peace deal it is likely to be offered.

That is why an external process is so important. Israel cannot be trusted to end the occupation; Palestinians cannot negotiate while under siege. The only way to break the deadlock is for the outside world to assist. Like South Africa’s Apartheid, Israel’s occupation concerns all of us; it is a sore in the heart of the Middle East. That is why the resolution was a missed opportunity; even as a statement of intent, a statement of solidarity, a vote would have helped.

Published: December 31, 2014 04:00 AM