Friday, November 30, 2012

"State" of Palestine? Where *and for what why)?

Yesterday, the UN General Assembly voted to grant Palestine the same status as the Vatican -- "non member observer state."   I have the feeling that if we in Canada had a Liberal or ND government, this country would have voted to abstain as more than 40 countries did.    That's the position we took in 1988 when the UNGA elected to temporarily adjourn from NYC to Geneva to hear a speech by Yasser Arafat of the PLO.   Of course, we have a conservative Conservative government and Harper directed our Ambassador there to vote No.   Odd we'd be in the same camp as the Democratic Obama albeit for very different reasons.   As you will read, I think that the way the UN did it yesterday was wrong-headed.   But not for the reasons that PMS had.

More than a year ago I wrote about this, that the concept of NMOS of Palestine, at least for now, was ill advised and for the same reason as now (in much more detail).   There is no clearly defined boundary of what would be a State of Palestine.   Officially, Canada takes the same position as most of the world -- that Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and most importantly East Jerusalem are not part of Israel and the occupations are illegal.   The existence of Israeli settlements which are operative exclaves of Israel are illegal.  (I have written numerous times here about legal exclaves -- just two of which include Alaska detached from the rest of the United States by Canada, and the gambling resort of Campione which is completely separated from Italy by Switzerland -- as opposed to these illegal territories and the real reason for their dubious existence.)

While I do support the concept of a country called Palestine, this really isn't the way to do it.  Not just because the borders have not been settled.   \This is not like Switzerland (which was originally an NMOS and evaded UN membership until 2002 even though it hosts the European headquarters at what used to be the League of Nations, and still maintains a policy of strict neutrality in world affairs although it does vote Yea or Nay at most of the General Assembly votes)    This is not like the Vatican which is still not a full member but a NMOS (the argument being that being a member would force it to take positions on world politics -- which is disingenuous, just read the diplomatic correspondence it does publish at its website !)

The precedents  show that a non member state ought to be neutral.   In the ball park that Palestine is in and given the history of occupation and being dispossessed one can hardly expect that this "country" such that it is would be neutral.   It has a very militant populace.   I suspect most Palestinians want peace with Israel but not on the West's terms.   And you can be sure that the legation from Ramallah (the current de facto capital) will use its status with which it can now get seats on any of a number of UN agencies to drag Israel into the World Court, the IAEA, and the International War Crimes Tribunal (all three of which Israel does not recognize).   And forget the Permanent Court of Arbitration, not connected with any world body but has often acted to solve disputes reasonably and peacefully.   What would be the point of having a dispute if one of the parties didn't even admit there was something to resolve?

These are all reasons to give one pause.   But PMS makes it even worse.   It is more than obvious he is in the back pocket of groups which either do not recognize there is even a Palestinian problem, or that there is no land other than Israel, or at the very least the illegal settlement should be made legal.   This has long been a problem in the States, especially at the Congressional level (although nearly all Presidents, and especially Carter and Clinton, have tried to get all sides together at least partially successful).   Harper is nowhere near as bad as the disgraced Tom Delay who defiantly showed up at the so called "pro-Israel" rallies and proclaimed his support for annexation (if not expulsion of Palestinians including those who actually live in Israel).

But maybe there's another reason.   It's not like the Israel new shekel (ILS) is considered to be a global currency -- think the buck, the yen, the euro or even the loonie for that.   But Israel is a very reliable place to park money in strip and coupon less bonds.   It's not easy for a country offering 6 percent interest to make all of its payments on time and at full value but it does.   It's only natural that in these tough times Canada would diversify its portfolio beyond just bonds from the States or Europe.   We don't directly provide foreign aid to a first world country (unlike the US does, inexplicably even just weeks away from the so-called fiscal cliff).

But are our holdings so large, or our non government foreign investments so great, that to even throw a bone of neutrality at Palestine (i.e. to abstain) would tick off the Israel government?   It's not like we're leaving Tel Aviv any time soon.

Money will always drive ideology.   I think that's what it's about -- not just appeasing the religious right across the country.

The vote of No was wrong.   We should have just abstained.   We need to do what we've always done -- say both sides have a point but also offer to be a negotiator in an attempt as feeble as it is that a final settlement can be found.    Harper could go down as one of the truly outstanding PMs if he just did that much.

Fat chance of course.

No comments: