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We're frequently told how mysterious, complex and controversial the Israel/Palestine conflict is. The reality was demonstrated recently by UN General Assembly, which once again voted overwhelmingly in favour of a two-state settlement based on the pre-June 1967 borders:

"16. Stresses the need for:
(a) The withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem;
(b) The realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, primarily the right to self-determination and the right to their independent State;

  1. Also stresses the need for justly resolving the problem of Palestine refugees in conformity with its resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948;
  1. Calls upon the parties to accelerate direct peace negotiations towards the conclusion of a final peaceful settlement on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, especially of the Security Council, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, the road map and the Arab Peace Initiative".

The resolution, which also calls for "an immediate and complete cessation of all acts of violence", condemns "all acts of violence and terror against civilians on both sides" and affirms the "right of all States in the region to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders", passed with a vote of 164-7, with 3 abstentions. The seven rejectionists were Israel, the United States., Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and the Marshall Islands (Cameroon, Canada and Tonga abstained). Virtually the entire world, including Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and all the other states allegedly standing in the way of peace, voted in favour, while the observer for Palestine also expressed support for the resolution, stressing that what Palestinians want is 'to live with all their neighbours in peace and security, including Israel.'

A resolution on Jerusalem that:

"1. Reiterates its determination that any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures;

  1. Stresses that a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of the City of Jerusalem should take into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and Israeli sides and should include internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the people of all religions and nationalities;"

passed by a similarly wide margin of 163-6, with six abstentions - this time the U.S. and Israel couldn't even marshall Australia to the cause, having to make do with a few Pacific atolls - while a third resolution sponsored by Syria calling for Israel to withdraw from the Golan and "expressing the hope that peace talks will soon resume from the point they had reached" passed by 116-6, with 52 abstentions.

164-7. 163-6. 116-6. Such is the "controversy" over how to resolve the conflict.


Also worth highlighting is the following exchange between the Israeli representative and the Observer for Palestine during the debate on the above resolutions.

The Israeli rep., Gabriela Shalev, repeated Israel's usual schtick about UN bias, asking whether the General Assembly's tiresome insistence on Israel conforming to the law really 'contribute[s] to the cause of peace' (a ballsy question from a state that is as we speak systematically annexing and dismembering the West Bank while reducing Gazans to a state of "abject destitution"). She implored the GA to adopt a "fresh outlook", complaining that while the "facts on the ground have changed", the UN resolutions remain the same. Presumably the UN is supposed to, in the light of Israeli settlements, the illegal wall, the de facto annexation of the Jordan Valley, the annexation of East Jerusalem, and so on, forget about international law. And if it doesn't, its resolutions will continue to have 'relevance ... of negative value'.

Step forward the Observer for Palestine:

"[E]xercising the right of reply, the representative of the Observer for Palestine spoke to Israel's questioning of the tangible benefits of General Assembly resolutions. She responded that yes, indeed, those resolutions were to bring immediate benefits to Palestinians. However, that would only be possible if Israel complied with them. That was the missing link, and the reason why the Assembly, year after year, continued to address the same depressing issues that had only been exacerbated with the passage of time. She called on Israel to end its more than four decades of military occupation and become a law-abiding member of the community of nations, rather than disparage international efforts to rectify Palestinians' suffering.

The only "side" being taken by the Assembly was that of international law and justice, in line with the United Nations Charter, she said. To Israel's comments on the repetitiveness of resolutions, she said they were empty arguments with no resonance with the majority of Member States, which supported the peace process, on the basis of international law. Rather than ask the arrogant question of whether resolutions contributed to the cause of peace, to which the answer was "yes", Israel should ask what it was contributing to that cause. She said Israel was not contributing by its continued building of colonial settlements and the wall, fragmentation of territory, imprisonment of civilians and blockade of more than 1.5 million Palestinians. All such violations, many tantamount to war crimes, only worsened the destabilizing situation on the ground. That was the problem.

She said no security pretext could justify Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian lands. Nowhere could security be achieved through the collective dismemberment of a people. All were cognizant of that, which was why the peace process was supported. Israel should acknowledge the international consensus that the situation was not tenable, and must commit itself to the peace process both in word and deed. She supported the two-State solution on the basis of 1967 borders, and was committed to that."

And that, ladies and gents, is how it's done.

Cross-posted at The Heathlander

Originally posted to Heathlander on Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 02:52 PM PST.

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