UN General Assembly votes for Palestine

un_intl_day_201230 November 2012 | PRESS RELEASE – UNITED NATIONS

General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to accord Palestine ‘Non-Member Observer State’ status in United Nations

Objective to ‘Breath New Life’ into Peace Process, Says Palestinian President;
Israel’s Delegate Counters, Without Direct Negotiations, Peace Remains ‘Out of Reach’

Voting by an overwhelming majority — 138 in favour to 9 against (Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Panama, Palau, United States), with 41 abstentions — the General Assembly today accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations.

“The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: enough of aggression, settlements and occupation,” said Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, as he called on the 193-member body to “issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine”. Indeed, following Israel’s latest aggression against the Gaza Strip, the international community now faced “the last chance” to save the long elusive two-State solution, he said, adding: “the window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out”.

Palestine came before the Assembly because it believed in peace, and because its people were in desperate need of it, he said, speaking ahead of the vote. Its endeavour to seek a change in status at the United Nations did not aim to terminate what remained of the long stagnant peace negotiations; instead, he said, it was aimed at trying to “breathe new life” into the process. Support for the resolution would also send a promising message to millions of Palestinians “that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful”, he stressed.

The text upgraded Palestine’s status without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was recognized as an observer entity in 1974. By other terms of the resolution — the adoption of which coincided with the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and with the Assembly’s annual debate on the Question of Palestine — Member States echoed the “urgent need for the resumption and acceleration” of the peace negotiations.

Israel’s representative, also taking the floor before the vote, emphasized that the “one-sided” resolution did not advance peace, but instead pushed the process backward. “There is only one route to Palestinian statehood. There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes,” he said. The route to peace ran through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. “ Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian State, but for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected,” he added.

He said that certain vital interests of his country, including recognition of the Jewish State and an agreement to end the conflict with Israel once and for all, did not appear in the text. Indeed, the only way to achieve peace was through agreements that had been reached by the parties and not through United Nations resolutions. He added that, as long as President Abbas preferred symbolism over reality, as long as he preferred to travel to New York rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace would be out of reach.

“There can be no substitute for negotiations”, agreed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also addressed the Assembly following the resolution’s adoption. The decision to accord Palestine non-Member Observer State status was the prerogative of Member States, he said of the action, reiterating his belief that the Palestinians had a legitimate right to an independent State, and that Israel had the right to live in peace and security. “I call on all those concerned to act responsibly” and intensify efforts towards reconciliation and towards a just and lasting peace, he said.

General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić said that in today’s interconnected world, “what happens between the River Jordan and the shores of the Mediterranean has become the key to the security and well-being of [all] mankind.” Notwithstanding the efforts of some of the most courageous statesmen of the twentieth century, a negotiated comprehensive settlement that would enable Israel and Palestine to live side by side in peace and security had yet to materialize “[a]nd so we still witness […] enmity, estrangement, and mistrust — as parents continue to bury their children”.

He appealed to both sides to work for peace; to negotiate in good faith; and ultimately, to succeed in reaching a historic settlement. “I have no doubt that history will judge this day to have been fraught with significance — but whether it will come to be looked upon as a step in the right direction on the road to peace will depend on how we bear ourselves in its wake,” he declared.

… … MAHMOUD ABBAS, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, said that Palestine came before the Assembly at a time when it was “still tending to its wounds” from the latest Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, which had wiped out entire families, murdering men, women and children along with their dreams, their hopes, their futures and their longing to live an ordinary life in freedom and peace. It came before the Assembly because it believed in peace, and because its people were in desperate need of it.

The international community now faced “the last chance to save the two-State solution,” he stressed in that regard. Indeed, the recent Israeli aggression had confirmed, once again, the urgent and pressing need to end the Israeli occupation and for the Palestinian people to gain their freedom and independence.

During the dark days of its past — which included one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history — the Palestinian people had looked to the United Nations as a beacon of hope. It had appealed for an end to injustice, for the achievement of peace and for the realization of its rights, “and our people still believe in this and continue to wait”.

Over the last months, the world had heard the “incessant flood” of Israeli threats to Palestine’s peaceful, political and diplomatic endeavour to acquire non-Member Observer status in the United Nations. Some of those threats had been carried out in a “horrific and barbaric manner” in the Gaza Strip just days ago. The conviction that Israel was above the law and that it had immunity was bolstered by the failure by some to condemn and demand the cessation of its violations and crimes, and by the position that “equates the victim and the executioner”. “The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: enough of aggression, settlements and occupation,” he affirmed.

He went on to say that Palestine did not seek to delegitimize a State established years ago, but rather to affirm the legitimacy of the State that must now achieve its independence. Nor was Palestine’s endeavour aimed at terminating what remains of the negotiation process — “which has lost its objectivity and credibility”. Instead, it was aimed at trying to breathe new life into the negotiations.

“We will not give up, we will not tire, and our determination will not wane”, he emphasized, adding that the Palestinian people would not relinquish their inalienable rights, as defined by United Nations resolutions, including the right to defend themselves against aggression and occupation. They would continue their popular, peaceful resistance and their “epic steadfastness”, and they would continue to build on their land. “We will accept no less than the independence of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital”, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, he stressed.

However, he warned, “the window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out”. Indeed, “the rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering”. It was time for action and time to move forward, he said, calling for support from those present in the Assembly today. That support would send a promising message to millions of Palestinians “that justice is possible and that there is a reason to be hopeful”. It would show that the world would not accept the continuation of the occupation.

In its endeavour to acquire non-Member State status today, Palestine reaffirmed that it would always adhere to and respect the Charter and resolutions of the United Nations and international law, uphold equality, guarantee civil liberties, uphold the rule of law, promote democracy and pluralism and uphold and protect the rights of women. Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly had adopted resolution 181 (1947), which partitioned the land of Palestine into two States and had become “the birth certificate for Israel”. It now had a moral and historic duty, as well as a practical one, to “salvage the chances for peace”. In that regard, he asked the Assembly to “issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine” on an urgent basis.

RON PROSOR ( Israel) said he represented the world’s one and only Jewish State; built in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland, with its eternal capital Jerusalem as its “beating heart”. He declared: “We are a nation with deep roots in the past and bright hopes for the future. We are a nation that values idealism, but acts with pragmatism. Israel is a nation that never hesitated to defend itself, but will always extend its hand for peace.” The Bible stated “seek peace and pursue it”. It had been the goal of the Israeli people and every Israeli leader since the re-established of Israel 64 years ago. This week marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem. In a speech just before that visit, that official had famously stood in the Egyptian Parliament and stated that he would go to the “ends of the Earth” to make peace with Israel.

Israel’s then-Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, had welcomed President Sadat to Israel and paved the way for peace. This morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said of the resolution the General Assembly was about to act upon: “Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian State, but for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all.”

None of those vital interests appeared in the resolution, he said, and as such, Israel could not accept it. The only way to achieve peace was through agreements that had been reached by the parties and not through United Nations resolutions that had completely ignored Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because the resolution was so one-sided, it did not advance peace, but pushed it backwards. No decision by the United Nations could break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel. The people of Israel waited for a Palestinian leader that was willing to follow in the path of President Sadat. For as long as President Abbas preferred symbolism over reality, as long as he preferred to travel to New York for United Nations resolutions, rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace would be out of reach.

He said that President Abbas had described today’s proceedings as “historic”. But the only thing historic about that official’s speech was how much it had ignored history. The truth was that 65 years ago today, the United Nations had voted to partition the British Mandate into two States: a Jewish State and an Arab State — two States for two peoples. Israel had accepted that plan. The Palestinians and Arab nations had rejected it and launched a “war of annihilation” to throw “the Jews into the sea”.

The truth was that from 1948 until 1967, the West Bank had been ruled by Jordon, and Gaza had been ruled by Egypt. The Arab States had not lifted a finger to create a Palestinian State. Instead, they had sought Israel’s destruction, and had been joined by newly formed Palestinian terrorist organizations. The truth was that to advance peace, Israel had dismantled entire communities and uprooted thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip in 2005. Rather than use that opportunity to build a peaceful future, the Palestinians had turned Gaza into an “Iranian terror base”, from which thousands of rockets had been fired into Israeli cities. Last week, Gaza had been turned into a launching pad for rockets into Israeli cities, a haven for global terrorists and a munitions dump for Iranian weapons.

Three months ago, Israel’s Prime Minister had stood in the Assembly Hall and extended his hand in peace to President Abbas, reiterating that his goal was to create a solution of two-States for two-peoples — where a demilitarized Palestinian State would recognize Israel as a Jewish State. This afternoon, “I did not hear you use the phrase ‘two States for two peoples’ and, in fact, I have never heard you say that phrase because the Palestinian leadership has never recognized that Israel is the nation-State of the Jewish people,” he said, adding: “President Abbas, instead of revising history, it is time that you started making history by making peace with Israel.”

The resolution would not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority, which clearly failed to meet the relevant criteria. The text would not enable the Palestinian Authority to join international treaties, organizations, or conferences as a State. The resolution could not serve as an acceptable term of reference for peace negotiations with Israel. “Let me tell you what his resolution does do,” he said, explaining that he believed it violated a fundamental binding commitment. It sent a message that the international community was willing to turn a blind eye to peace agreements. “Why continue to make painful sacrifices for peace, in exchange for pieces of paper that the other side will not honour?” he asked.

“There is only one route to Palestinian statehood. And that route does not run through this chamber in New York,” he said, adding that that route ran through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. “There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions,” he said, recalling that United States President Barack Obama had said in 2010: “Peace cannot be imposed from the outside.” In closing, he said, “65 years ago the Palestinians could have chosen to live side by side with the Jewish State of Israel. They could have chosen to accept the solution of two States for two peoples. They rejected it then, and they are rejecting it again today.” The United Nations had been founded to advance the cause of peace. Today, the Palestinians were turning their back on peace. “Don’t let history record that today the world body helped them along on their march of folly.”

… … Australia’s representative said that its decision to abstain in the vote balanced its support for the right of the Palestinian people to have a State with its concern for the need for a negotiated two-State solution. The resolution would confer the status of a non-Member Observer State on Palestine, not that of a Member State. He was concerned the resolution might make a negotiated solution more difficult. He urged both parties to return to negotiations, and said that it was important that neither side take actions now that would jeopardize that goal.

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