New year, old tricks: Palestinians go to UN

By Robin Shepherd, January 6, 2011

The signs were there for all to see. 2011 was always going to be the year that the Palestinians turned to the United Nations to help obscure the reality of their own rejectionism as the root cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and to use inbuilt majorities in that less than august institution to make life as difficult as possible for the state of Israel.

The opening move, it seems, will be made imminently. The Palestinians are pushing for a United Nations resolution declaring that settlements are against international law and thus form the main stumbling block to meaningful negotiations.

As Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat put it in an article in the Los Angeles Times, the strategy is to base the wording of the resolution on comments against settlement building that have already been voiced publicly by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thus making it extremely difficult for the Americans to block it. "It's a very moderate resolution by design because we don't want the US to veto it," Erekat said bluntly.

There is nothing new in United Nations resolutions against the settlements. In March 1979, UN Security Council Resolution 446 averred that the settlements "have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East".

But in the current climate the move would be significant as a means to building momentum ahead of an attempt to use the UN to impose a peace agreement from on high later in the year. Senior Palestinians now favour making a unilateral declaration of statehood on 1967 lines, possibly in July or August, and then getting the United Nations to give them formal recognition as an independent state.

The Palestinians also hope that a resolution on the settlements would obscure the fact that it is they, and not the Israelis, who are refusing to negotiate and that settlements cannot lie at the heart of the problem since the Palestinians were just as resolute in their opposition to meaningful peace talks prior to 1967, during which period there were no settlements whatsoever.

Robin Shepherd is Director of International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society. He is the author of 'A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem with Israel'

Last updated: 1:36pm, January 6 2011