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France Pushes for Palestinian Statehood at the UN

January 24, 2014 at 1:00 am

For the second time in recent weeks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has supported Palestine. First, was during Operation Pillar of Defence where he travelled to Jerusalem and opposed the Israeli ground incursion in Gaza.

The second was on Tuesday when he announced that France, a permanent member of the Security Council, would vote in favour of Palestinian non-member observer status at the United Nations.

France’s policy and reputation in the Middle East is mixed. It adamantly opposed intervention in Iraq, but at the same time it is often accused of unfair treatment towards its Arab population at home.

Despite this, the vote from France will be largely seen as a symbolic victory for Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah party who currently control the West Bank. The vote will certainly add weight to the Palestinian cause.

Unfortunately it will be harder to convince the United States to vote ‘yes’ at the UN. American President Obama wants Palestine to be realised through ‘negotiations’ and a return to peace talks. Not through a vote at the General Assembly.

These peace talks, or Obama’s precondition for statehood, are the 1993 Oslo accords. They are considered a huge failure amongst Palestinians and many in the international community.

Yet Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev continues to claim that Palestine is violating the peace accords by bidding for recognition. They crumbled in 2010 because Israel continued to build illegal settlements in the occupied west bank; do Israel, despite their PR spin, really want peace? 

In the event that non-member observer status is achieved, it could offer Palestine a way into the International Criminal Court in The Hague. If granted access, Palestinians could file complaints against Israel; no doubt they have an exhaustive list.

America and Britain have tried to coerce Palestine into signing a confidential letter on their terms. Making a mockery of justice the document would prevent them approaching the ICC for crimes already committed.

China, who are not in people’s good books in many parts of the Middle East for supporting Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, are perhaps keen to make amends and will also vote for Palestine. So will Russia; it does not look as though Israel will gain the “moral majority” that they were hoping for.

Germany will vote against, Britain is undecided. Portugal, Malta and Luxembourg are just some of the 11 EU countries that are predicted to vote in favour. Perhaps they are moved to vote for Palestine after the region’s vulnerability was exposed during Operation Pillar of Defence.

But it’s hard to see their decision as being independent of Operation Pillar of Defence. There is no doubt that Israel’s brutality during the eight-day assault on Gaza means Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team plummeted in the opinion polls, whilst Palestine and Hamas rose.

Hamas’ popularity does not suit many in the West; the United States, Canada, the EU and Japan class Hamas as a terrorist organisation, despite being elected in free and fair elections in 2006.

Mahmoud Abbas, the de facto president of Fatah in the West Bank, has long been the safer option in the West. He is also easier to control; in ‘crises’ like this, the US just threatens to pull the plug on funding from Washington if it doesn’t get its own way.

Follow Amelia on Twitter: @amyinthedesert

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.