RAMALLAH, Mar 31, 2011 (IPS) – The Israeli government has warned the U.N. Security Council and the EU that it will resort to unilateral countermeasures if the international community recognises Palestine as an independent state at the U.N. General Assembly session next September.
The warning is in response to what the Israeli government perceives as attempts by critics, local and international, to “de-legitimise” the Jewish state.
Over the last few months a growing number of Latin American countries have granted recognition to an independent Palestinian state. These include Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Guyana. Paraguay and Peru are likely to follow suit in the near future while Venezuela recognised Palestine as an independent state in the mid-2000s.
Norway upgraded the Palestinian representative’s office in Oslo from a ‘general delegation’ to a ‘diplomatic delegation’. And over the past four months, several countries, including none other than the U.S. – followed by other Israeli-friendly states such as France, Spain, and Portugal – upgraded the Palestinian representations.
Another one hundred or so other countries – most of them developing nations – had recognised ‘Palestine’ after Yasser Arafat unilaterally declared “independence” in 1988.
Other states, mostly from the former Eastern Bloc, recognised Palestinian statehood in the wake of the 1993 Oslo peace accords.
The diplomatic tide that originated in Latin America could pick up steam in Africa and Asia. A tell tale sign was when the University of Johannesburg in South Africa decided last week to cease cooperation with Israel’s Ben Gurion University and to boycott other Israeli universities.
The former apartheid regime in South Africa used to be one of Israel’s closest allies. Military, political and economic cooperation between the two ostracised members of the international community was extremely close.
Israel helped train South African security forces, renowned for their brutality, and helped the apartheid state with its nuclear programme – since disbanded by the post-apartheid democratic government. In return, South Africa is believed to have supplied the Israelis with uranium for their own nuclear programme.
Israel’s outrage at international criticism peaked after Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen as he is better known, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), stated on Thursday that the Palestinians remain frozen.
Last week Israel informed 15 members of the United Nations Security Council, and major EU (European Union) countries, that if the PA persisted in its efforts to gain recognition as a state within the 1967 borders, Israel would respond with a series of unilateral measures.
Also last week, the Israeli foreign ministry sent a classified cable to more than 30 Israeli embassies abroad ordering them to lodge diplomatic protests at the highest possible level in response to Palestinian efforts for international recognition of statehood at the U.N. General Assembly session in September.
Last September, U.S. President Barack Obama told the General Assembly that he wished to see a Palestinian state become a member of the U.N. within a year. Israel and the Palestinians also agreed that the talks they began last Sep. 2 in Washington would last for about a year.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stated that his efforts to establish state-building institutions would be completed by September.
What exactly the Israeli government has in mind in regard to the “unilateral actions” it is threatening is not known. But these could involve the annexation of major Israeli settlement blocs illegally built in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.
More bad news for Israel followed on Wednesday when U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to halt settlement building in the West Bank and put a stop to all forms of violence and incitement.
Speaking in Uruguay at the U.N. Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in support of Middle East peace Ban said it was a “crucial time” for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“Time is of the essence in realising the two-State solution,” Ban said. “The occupation that started in 1967 is morally and politically unsustainable, and must end. The Palestinians have a legitimate right to the establishment of an independent and viable State of their own.”
But Dr. Samir Awad from Birzeit Universitiy, near Ramallah, believes the Israelis care a lot more about establishing facts on the ground and a lot less for international opinion.
“The Israelis, contrary to their claims of saying they support the creation of an independent Palestinian state, have decided, albeit off the record, that the establishment of a Palestinian state is not in their interest,” Awad told IPS.
“For international consumption and to keep up appearances they will keep the charade of supporting a two-state solution up so as not to appear the peace spoilers.
“But actually they care more about establishing facts on the ground vis a vis the settlements and to hell with international opinion. Building more settlements and preventing a contiguous and viable Palestinian state concerns them far more than global approval.”
(www.ipsnews.net / 31.03.2011)