On November 29th, a remarkable 138 United Nations members voted in favor of granting Palestine the status of a “nonmember observer state,” and another 41 UN members abstained. Only nine countries voted against the resolution: Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, Panama, the United States, and a smattering of Pacific island nations. Even many countries known for being quite friendly with Israel decided not to oppose Palestinian recognition. In Latin America, for example, Colombia and Guatemala abstained, while Costa Rica voted yes. (Less than a year ago, Tablet magazine reported that Guatemala was “considered a reliable vote against Palestinian bids for recognition.” So much for that.) In Europe, Britain and Germany abstained, while France and Italy voted yes. (A senior Israeli diplomat told McClatchy that the German abstention “was truly a shock.”)
While the UN vote was widely hailed as a “symbolic” victory for the Palestinians, it was a major setback for the Middle East peace process. After all, the 1993 Oslo Accords stipulate that the Palestinians must negotiate their statehood with Israel. Thus, every country that either endorsed recognition or abstained from voting was effectively encouraging the Palestinians to disregard their Oslo obligations and continue harboring dangerous delusions.
Moreover, the vote was a massive triumph for Hamas, which remains committed to Israel’s destruction. Even Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, a member of the rival Fatah faction, acknowledged that UN recognition had vindicated the Hamas strategy of using violence rather than peaceful diplomacy. “Hamas delivered,” he said after the vote. “Hamas has won.”
Not surprisingly, Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar was happy to crow about his organization’s growing credibility among Palestinians. “The most important fact that has emerged from this is Hamas’s ability to convince all Palestinians of our way,” he declared. “We gave Fatah a full opportunity to implement its way, and it failed.”