Sunday, September 25, 2011

Non-member status for Palestine a non-starter

An interesting suggested compromise to the "Palestinian question" came out during the week past.   It would be to recognize the Palestinian state without granting it a seat at the United Nations General Assembly.   The quirk would be that it would have the ability to sit on the UN's agency bodies -- UNESCO, UNICEF, ICAO, IAEA and so forth -- just as the Holy See / Vatican does.   Among the many commentators who have made this suggestion of a "Vatican solution" for Palestine was Gwynne Dyer.   I usually agree with Dyer's insights but there are a few flaws with this one.   I count three.

The biggest problem is that unlike Vatican City which is a very definitive territory inside of Rome, the borders of Palestine haven't been settled.   Far from it.  Clearly Israel doesn't accept the pre-1967 lines otherwise it would not be building the so-called border fence well inside the Green Line, nor would it be creating even more new illegal exclaves on Palestinian ground.   In fact, as we well know,  the status of Jerusalem itself isn't settled; and the issue of the Old City is complicated by recent archaeological evidence (controversial in itself and for obvious reasons) to suggest the actual site of the Jewish Temple is not at or below where the Dome of the Rock and the adjacent Haram al-Sharif are now but actually slightly further south in a section of Jersualem known as the "City of David," where the mighty king built his palace, this too happens to be in East Jerusalem.

Also notable is that the Vatican supports an "international city" status for Jerusalem which once existed for Danzig / Gdansk in the interwar period of the last century, and what West Berlin was more or less during the Cold War.    Israel rejects this, as do most "Christian" televangelists, and all countries that do have ties with Israel purposely locate their embassies outside of Jerusalem (either East or West) until the final status of the city is determined.

Second, were Palestine to get this non member state status, a stepping stone from getting full membership, it would create enormous problems of its own.   It has a hard time acknowledging the terrorists within its own borders let alone trying to stop them.    And if that weren't enough, it would be quite an embarrassment for Israel if Palestine were to use the IAEA to openly declare what we all know already, that Israel has nuclear weapons and should be subject to international sanctions if it doesn't open up its facilities.   I agree that Israel shouldn't get any special exemptions, any more than North Korea or Iran should, but no country has ever imposed sanctions on Israel when treaty obligations suggest that they should do so.

Third, and finally, Palestine is not like the Vatican.   As part of the treaty that ended the impasse between Italy and itself, the Vatican pledged itself to permanent neutrality in world affairs.  A non-member member status for Palestine would indicate the same.   Palestine is hardly neutral in matters international.   It's been on the agenda since the First World War, not the Second.   And while the King of Jordan has suggested that a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan could include a security blanket from the entire Islamic Conference, this is no longer certain with the year of revolutions which while welcome cast current arrangements for peace into doubt.

I agree that justice delayed is justice denied.   And while Palestinians are a people that deserve to have their own state, this isn't the way to do it any more than a full statehood gambit being pursued by Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen).   Especially when there's no peace to be had.   Until some kind of border is agreed upon, until free and unimpeded access to holy sites is agreed upon, and certainly until the issue of compensation for dispossessed Palestinians is agreed upon (at this late stage a right of return is impractical), the status quo as undesirable as it is, is preferable to the black hole a "you're in but you're out" status would create.

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