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Opinion: Israel’s ICC Embarrassment | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on as he speaks during a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on July 11, 2014. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)

Rejection of the Palestinian statehood bid went so smoothly that the US didn’t even have to resort to its UN Security Council veto. The draft resolution failed to garner the 9 votes required after Nigeria, which had initially backed the Palestinian plan, abstained from the vote. The eight states who voted in favor of the draft resolution were Russia, China, Jordan, Chad, Argentina, France, Luxembourg and Chile. The US and Australia voted against the motion while Britain, Lithuania, Rwanda, South Korea and Nigeria abstained. Nigeria, in particular dashed Arab hopes by changing its position only a short time before the vote. After the Palestinians’ defeat at the UN, we must wonder what measures Tel Aviv will take against President Mahmoud Abbas for even daring to push the issue to a vote. Israel may seek to besiege Abbas at home, preventing him from travelling abroad to lobby for the Palestinian Cause.

Of course, nobody expected that the UN Security Council would approve and recognize a Palestinian state. If that had happened it would have been the most important event in almost 70 years, marking the beginning of a new era for the region and the Palestinian people. While nobody can doubt that the establishment of a Palestinian state is essential, it seems that achieving this aim exceeds our capabilities and requires political influence, a change in the balance of regional powers and long and complicated diplomatic efforts.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s team surely must have been expecting this result, the rejection of its draft bill, even before it submitted the resolution to the UN Security Council. The Palestinian team certainly didn’t act while under the illusion of a possible victory. In fact, Abbas likely made this decision as part of political maneuvering to embarrass Israel and the US or in the hopes of negotiating other Palestinian demands, like ending illegal settlement building, resuming the peace negotiations or restraining Israeli security forces’ violence in the West Bank.

Failure at the UN Security Council was expected, although we must express surprise at the Arabs’ incapability to gather even nine votes in support of the motion. Surely the aim was to force the US to use its veto, thus demonstrating to the entire world that it’s only through the US’s veto power that the Palestinians’ rights are being denied.

The Israelis never stop issuing threats to the Palestinian Authority for trying to seek a solution via the UN Security Council, or trying to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). Simply put, this means that Abbas can keep going. The Israelis have warned Abbas that his actions may be a violation of the security provisions in the Oslo Accords, but this is an empty accusation, in the same way as Abbas’s threats to end security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank.

However, we must also acknowledge that it is not only Jewish extremists who represent a threat to West Bank stability, the authorities have previously arrested Hamas cells for planning operations that fall within the context of the struggle between the group and Fatah. Israel’s very presence, ensuring the status quo, is also “protecting” Hamas in Gaza from Fatah’s security apparatus which seeks to alter the political situation in the Strip.

US President Barack Obama has been insulted, on a number of occasions, by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu; however his stance remained weak and he has not done anything to curb six years of Israeli violations of agreements signed under the sponsorship of Washington. Given this state of affairs, nobody expects anything new from Obama during his remaining presidential term. In fact, what we can expect, and fear, is Israel exploiting Obama’s weak stance to push the Ramallah government to collapse by continuing to commit violations such as increasing settlement building, allowing extremist Jews to attack worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque and sparking confrontations aimed at embarrassing and weakening Abbas.