The Palestinian Authority was finally successful today in its attempt to achieve nonmember observer state status, provoking criticism from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill and especially vociferous outcry from embattled UN Ambassador Susan Rice.
The vote was 138 in favor and nine opposed, with 41 abstentions; Norway even tweeted a photo of its representative voting yes. The “no” votes came from Canada, Czech Republic, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Panama, the U.S., and Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office slammed as “defamatory and venomous” a 22-minute speech by Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in which the PLO leader said the “rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering” as the international community faced “the last chance to save the two-state solution.”
Abbas said the Palestinians would accept “no less than the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital” yet vowed to act “responsibly” if the General Assembly granted its new status.
“I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today: No decision by the UN can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel,” Netanyahu said before the vote.
Rice seemed to be moving to make up ground lost in her potential nomination for secretary of State as she made the rounds on Capitol Hill this week.
“Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded,” she said at the UN. “…Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.”
“For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for UN membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state,” Rice added.
Rice then tweeted multiple bits of the speech. “Today’s unfortunate & counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. The U.S. therefore voted against it,” she said.
One of her biggest critics on the Hill, though, was joining hands with Democrats to take concrete punitive action against the UN vote.
“Granting United Nations membership to the Palestinian Authority is a nightmare in the making for the peace process,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Earlier in the day, Graham held a press conference with Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to introduce legislation that would force the closure of the PLO’s office in Washington unless Palestinians have entered into “meaningful” negotiations with Israel.
It also would eliminate American foreign assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the International Criminal Court adjudicates any matter proposed or supported by the Palestinians. The PA is expected to use its new status to attempt to go after Israel in the ICC.
“We are committed to using every means at our disposal to ensure that this UN vote does not serve as a precedent for elevating the status of the PLO in other UN bodies or international forums,” Schumer said.
“We will not use American taxpayer dollars to support a Palestinian entity whose primary goal, if they file a complaint in the ICC, is to marginalize the Jewish state rather than live in peace with the people of Israel,” Graham said.
“We will not stand idly by and allow the Palestinians to evade the peace process by pressing their political cause through alternate means and we will not provide financial support, or political support in the form of offices in the U.S., if the Palestinians aren’t serious about pursuing real peace through real negotiations,” said Menendez. “The choice is theirs.”