A double-standard abstention
The double standard was breathtaking. The UN vote to give the Palestinians non-member, observer status has smashed the Middle East peace process to bits.
In bringing this to the General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas was in unilateral breach of his obligation under the Oslo Accords to proceed by way of bilateral negotiations with Israel.
In response, Israel made a very sharp point of its own by announcing it would now build 3,000 homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. It also said it would approve planning and zoning for a more sensitive area called E1 between Jerusalem and the settlement bloc of Ma’ale Adumim.
Israel was thus showing its fury not just with the Palestinians but also with the world. For the UN move not only legitimised an entity that has no legitimacy, thus substituting politics for law, but also punished the permanent victim of its murderous aggression.
The proper response to Palestinian aggression, racism and contempt for international agreements is to cut their funding.
The UK turns a blind eye
Yet the UK, which merely abstained after Abbas refused to meet its conditions for supporting him, responded with outrage — not at the Palestinians but at Israel.
Like other EU countries summoning the Israeli ambassador for a dressing-down, it claimed that the construction “threatened the viability of the two-state solution” and threatened unspecified punishments.
But it is the PA and the UN who have torn up the peace process. There is no longer any agreement to bind Israel to anything.
Nor is Israel changing much on the ground, since the proposed new building is in existing Jewish areas. It is generally assumed that these would become part of Israel under any final agreement. As for E1, Israel has said no decision has been taken to build there.
So why did the UK respond in this obnoxiously perverse way? One explanation that some will favour is its irredeemable hatred of Israel and the Jews.
Let’s park that one for now. Rather more relevant to the row is that Britain obsessively pursues a fundamental category error.
It believes that the peace process is the only way to achieve the only solution to the Middle East impasse, which is a Palestinian state. In the light of all that has happened, such a belief is totally delusional.
Israel has always accepted a two-state solution. The Palestinians have gone to extreme lengths to demonstrate they will never do so. Instead, they blow up Israeli civilians and indoctrinate Palestinian children to hate and murder Jews. They refused to negotiate with Israel even during a 10-month moratorium on new settlement building.
This is because what they want is not a state of Palestine but the destruction of Israel. They abrogate their agreements and thus destroy the prospect of a negotiated solution — because they do not want one.
Yet here’s the really delusional thing about the UK’s peace-process obsession. It is precisely because the Palestinians refuse to co-operate with this supposedly vital process that the UK is ever more desperate to get them on board.
So instead of punishing them for not co-operating, it turns a blind eye to every outrage they commit — while blaming Israel, whose own willingness to negotiate they take for granted, for “provoking” them.
So the UK gives a free pass to racist aggression while punishing its victim. Which is what it and the rest of the so-called “civilised” world have been doing in the Middle East ever since the 1920s. And that, not settlement building, is the real reason why this conflict is the most intractable in the world.
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist.