The President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed in Ramallah as a national hero when he came back from New York last week. In this way Palestinians celebrated his triumph at the UN General Assembly, which gave the majority of votes to assigning an observer status to Palestine. “Now we have a state,” said Abbas during the meeting in front of 5,000 people in Ramallah. “The world has said ‘yes’ to Palestine.”
A total of 138 countries, including France, Japan, and Russia, supported the new status of the Palestinian Authority. Only nine voted against it, among them being the US, Israel, Canada, the Czech Republic. Overall 41 countries, including Great Britain and Germany, abstained from voting. Ukrainian delegation left the hall before the voting took place. The Day addressed the MFA spokesperson Oleksandr DYKUSAROV with a request to comment on Ukraine’s position on assigning the status of observer to Palestine and why Ukrainian delegation left the building during the voting. “We understand the matter of your question, and we are working on it. I will talk about it today in the afternoon or tomorrow during the briefing,” told the MFA spokesperson to The Day.
On its hand, Israel called the UN voting a “harmful political theater” and promised to provide an “effective and notable” response. Al Jazeera informs that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinians of “rough violations” of previous arrangements with Israel. On The Day after the voting, he announced the start of construction of 3,000 settlements in the E1 zone, located between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank. This step was immediately criticized by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “It will basically become a fatal blow to the remaining chances to solve the conflict in peaceful way of creating two states.” Besides, the BBC informed that Israeli government announced that it will freeze the transfer of tax revenue of about 100 million dollars, collected by the Palestinian Authority. The official reason is that Palestinians owe 200 million dollars to Israeli energy suppliers. The Day addressed the expert on the Middle East security, professor at the Tel Aviv University Meir LITVAK to comment upon Israeli’s opinion on Palestine’s new status, and the way it is going to influence the parliamentary elections that will take place in January, 2013.
“The new status will provide a direct access to the International Criminal Court for Palestinians. They will be able to legally sue Israeli settlers and settlements, and perhaps, the Israeli army. Since according to the UN resolution, the legal position of Israeli territory in the West Bank can change, and wording ‘occupying country’ may change to ‘aggressor country.’
“Secondly, this might be a way out of the dead-end situation in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Since the new status will help Palestinians force Netanyahu start negotiations on solving the problem of Israeli settlements.
“I think that from their side, conditions of returning of Palestinians refugees to Israeli territory will be softened.
“But in general, I do not think that it will drastically change the everyday life of Palestinians and Israeli, at least in the near future. But if a large number of cases will be submitted to the International Criminal Court, Israel might end up in a complicated situation.
“Concerning the possible influence of this victory of Palestinians at the UN on the 2013 parliamentary elections in Israel, I do not think it will change anything. The opposition has already stated that Palestinians succeeded because of Netanyahu’s inactivity. They say he did nothing in the past two years to influence the situation. But Netanyahu’s supporters are convinced that such negotiations were doomed to failure anyway. I think that this position will only strengthen. However, after the elections, the future parliament, which might be formed by the Likud, will face serious challenges on a number of scenes: Palestinian, Iranian, and economic. In my opinion, Netanyahu will not be able to carry on with the policy he conducts before the election. He will need to make some changes, otherwise he will encounter a serious crisis in two or even three areas.
“But I think such changes are not to be expected any time soon. Israel will not accept the policy that is recommended by the Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: fight the Palestinian government until it collapses. Israel understands that is a wrong way that will lead to Hamas appearance in the West Bank. In my opinion, Palestinians’ progress at the UN will not lead to serious and noticeable changes on the territory. Palestinians will also be careful, considering the fact that Israel is supported by the United States.”
Ihor SEMYVOLOS, executive director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies:
“Such behavior indicates a lack of position. And this, in its turn, indicates the lack of policies, principles, and values.
“Ukrainian Foreign Ministry believes that foreign policy should be as economy oriented as possible. Thus, as they think, such policy will avoid any dangerous moments, pursuing a policy of ‘minefield,’ passing by various political mines. But in my opinion, this policy is wrong since the relations between the two countries are built and receive a high level of confidence only when partners understand the values that their policy is built on.
“This discussion has been interesting in the light of the Arab revolutions in the Middle East and the way they were supported by Europe, despite all the risks that accompanied these events. This suggests that European values did not allow the EU make any other choice.
“This is a vivid example of how values shape foreign policy. In the Ukrainian context the situation with the Ukrainian delegation shows that we do not have any values and the country is absolutely indifferent, and its foreign policy is ‘impotent.’ This position is the only way to avoid policy as such. Although, in my opinion, this situation turned Ukrainian vote into a joke because Ukrainian people in general have walked off from the political map.
“The problem is not in how Ukraine would have voted but in what reasons would it give for voting one way or another.”
It seems that the best solution for such problem in the circles of Ukrainian diplomats is their withdrawal…
“In any case, it would be best to find some solution but with further explanation so that Ukraine’s partners would know what or whom they are dealing with. In this situation it turns out that they just do not understand this.”
In your opinion what position should Ukraine take regarding the new status of Palestine? Should it follow the position of the United States or Russia, which together with France and Japan supported this initiative?
“Ukrainian foreign policy has certain heredity. For a long time Ukraine was a part of the Committee of Friends of the Palestinian People. Ukraine has a Palestinian Embassy in Kyiv and many other things that demonstrate that Ukraine recognizes Palestinian state. Given all these aspects and the historical continuity, a decision to vote against this initiative could have been rather strange.”
Will the new status of Palestine facilitate peaceful settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations?
“This is an indirect condition. Palestinians will try to use this status in order to reduce the huge asymmetry in the negotiation process. Obviously, the negotiations can be effective only between these two parties. But both countries have every right to use all available tools in order to strengthen their positions. However, it is still an open question whether Palestinians will manage to do it. Considering the position of the Israel, we see a counterproductive reaction from them, which was well expected.
“In my opinion, Israel hasn’t got the main signal that the vote has shown: the world and its vast majority got tired of Israeli policies in the Middle East.”