Thursday, November 29, 2012 – exactly 65 years after passing the Partition Plan for Palestine, the General Assembly voted by a huge majority to recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member state with observer status in the organization. 138 countries voted in favour of the resolution, 41 abstained and 9 voted against: United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, The Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Micronesia – what do they know that the other 138 countries that voted in favour of the resolution don’t? Isn’t the UN resolution a step to a peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine and the Middle East? Here are the reactions to from some of the countries that voted no:
“unfortunate and couterproductive…only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestines and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for people, with a sovereign, viable, independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.” – Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
“The UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestines are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.” – Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor.
“The path to peace has historically rested in direct negotiations between the two parties to resolve all outstanding issues and it remains the same today. Solutions can only come through the two sides working together….This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations. Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No. On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.” – Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird.
“Progress towards a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall.” – U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice
Here is a brief History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (http://www.guardian.co.uk/flash/0,,720353,00.html)
The Ottoman Empire
During the fourteenth century the Turkic peoples, who had moved west from the Steppes of central Asia, settled in the Anatolian peninsula (modern-day Turkey) and started to conquer surrounding states. In 1516 they conquered the east coast of the Mediterranean. At its zenith, about 1680, the Ottoman empire ran from Vienna to the Gulf and from the Caspian Sea to Morocco in north-west Africa.
1914 – 1918
The Ottoman sided with Germany during the first World War and the British supported an Arab revolt against the Ottomans promising them self-rule. The British also promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine – the then foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, issuing a declaration in 1917.
The Arabs took over Syria led by Prince Faysal ibn Husayn of the Arabian Hashemite dynasty. After the war, the League of Nations granted France and Britain control (‘mandates’) over former Ottoman territories. France was given Syria; Britain got a mandate over what became Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jordan.
The British divided their mandate in two – East of the river Jordan became the Emirate of Transjordan and was ruled by Faysal’s brother, ‘Abdullah. West of the Jordan, became the Palestine mandate and remained under British control.
Jewish immigration to the Holy Land, which had been going on since the 1880’s, increased just before the second World War due to the persecution of European Jews by the Nazis and subsequent Holocaust. The local Arabs wanted to limit the numbers arriving. There were clashes between the Jewish immigrants and Palestines supported by neighbouring Arab states.
Britain gave up its mandate and the United Nations took over supervision. The UN suggested two states: one Arab, one Jewish. The Jews accepted; the Arabs rejected the plan. David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948. Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan invaded but were beaten back.
The Jews had extended, the area proposed for them by the UN. In 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt, Nasser integrated the armies of Egypt and Syria and nationalised the European-owned Suez canal.
Israel joined with Britain and France and on October 29, 1956, invaded the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. Later that same year, international pressure forced the Israelis to give up Sinai and the UK and France to remove their troops from the Suez canal.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was founded. After the debacle of the six-day war, it reformed. Under the chairmanship of Yasser Arafat, it claimed to be the sole representative of the Palestinian people and it vowed to reclaim their land and destroy the state of Israel.
The six-day war. Hostilities between Israel and its neighbours continued and both sides built up their military strength. On June 5, 1967 – Israel launched a ‘preemptive strike’ against the Arab troops along its borders. Israel seized the Sinai from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan. Talks have centred around a return to pre-1967 borders ever since.
The Yom Kippur war, On October 6, 1973 – Syria and Egypt launched a surprise attack on Israeli-held lands to coincide with the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. After initial losses, the Israelis regained nearly all of the territory they occupied during the six-day war. Syria stationed troops in Lebanon in 1976.
The US combined diplomacy with financial muscle to soften relations between Egypt and Israel. In 1979, the Egyptian president – Anwar Sadat, signed a mutual recognition pact with Israel and Sinai was returned to Egypt.
Israel formally annexed the Golan Heights. In response to terrorist attacks on northern towns, Israel invaded Lebanon as far north as Beirut on June 6, 1982. In 1985, Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon but maintained a ‘security zone’ along the border policed by Israeli soldiers and members of the South Lebanese Army.
During the early 1980’s, the establishment of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank continued systematically. In 1987, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza launched the intifada (popular uprising) against Israeli occupation.
The Oslo Accords were agreed, which provided for mutual recognition between the PLO and the state of Israel, and limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza. Jordan signed a peace deal with Israel. May 2000: Israel withdrew from Lebanon, but Hizbullah guerrillas harried the retreating Israelis, and members of the South Lebanese Army had to flee with their families into Israel.
Violence flared across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound. Palestinian Authority police traded fire with Israeli soldiers – many were killed, hundreds injured: most of the casualties were Arabs, The death of 12-year old Palestinian Mohammed al-Durrah shot dead, apparently by Israeli troops, was broadcast around the world.
2000 – 2002
By the end of 2000, over 300 people were dead. Ariel Sharon became the Prime Minister of Israel in February 2001. After September 11, violence escalated as Israel pursued its own ‘war on terrorism’. 2002: Tensions rose and many were killed on both sides when Palestinian militants launched a new wave of suicide bombings and Israel occupied a large part of the West Bank.
The road map peace plan to a two-state solution started with US-backed Mahmoud Abbas becoming Palestinian Prime Minister. Palestinian militants announced a ceasefire but Israel continued to kill militant leaders. Mr. Abbas left office after a power struggle with Mr. Arafat. Israel continued with its West Bank ‘security fence’. A suicide attack in Haifa prompted Israel to bomb a camp in Syria.
Israel continues building its security fence roughly along its pre-1967 borders but with loops into Palestinian areas. Ariel Sharon announces a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a re-commitment to the biggest Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Just over 4 million Palestinians, who fled Israeli expansion and the 1967 war, are still in exile in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
All about timelines courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk/flash/0,,720353,00.html
My personal thoughts in the UN resolution…..
I don’t claim to have the greatest understanding of the Israeli/Arab conflict but I do know that 138 countries in support of a UN resolution that recognizes Palestine as a non-member state with observer status, is a step in the right direction. I know that the Palestinian and Israeli people want an end to the violence – and this a pro-active step in the peace process. The countries that voted ‘no’ or that have abstained from voting are sending a message that is counter productive to the peace process and that gives hope for a positive resolution for all involved. By voting ‘NO’ or abstaining from voting (especially against the majority) you are giving a clear message that you do not want to be inclusive and seem to be against a peaceful resolution.
The UN has clearly given me hope that a democracy can work for the greater good – now all we have to do is send our positive energies (love, compassion, non-judgement) into the universe and pray that this resolution is the beginning to a long-lasting and tolerant co-existence between Arabs and Israelis.
Together, we can make the world a more positive one!