William James Martin taught at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He contributed this article to RamallahOnline. Contact him at: email@example.com.
He was interviewed by Iranian journalist Sohrab Bohan, and this interview will be published in Farsi at borhan.ir
President of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, said Palestinians cannot not join UN ranks as a member state without confirmation by the Security Council, and the US is set to veto such an initiative. How do you think the Palestinians will proceed?
I think almost the entire world supports the Palestinian initiative for statehood in the UN, except the US and Israel and the few states which the US is able to coerce. But then there are also those individuals, analyst or historians mostly, Dr Pappe, for example, who have long supported the Palestinian cause who oppose the UN initiative and see it as inconsistent with the one democratic state solution. Like them, I also support the one state democratic egalitarian state solution, but have a stronger feeling for the urgency of the present situation and feel that the momentum of the constant daily dispossession of the Palestinians and the constant erosion of Palestinian rights must be halted, and sooner rather than later.
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, within the last few days, even said that the recognition of statehood for Palestine by the world community is long overdue.
Mahmoud Abbas has now asserted pretty forthrightly and more than once that they are proceeding directly to the Security Council even in the face of a promised US veto by President Obama and the intense pressure being exerted by the US and by US Congressional threats to withhold funding for the PA and the threat to close the PA Observer’s offices in Washington, DC.
Mr Abbas is exercising some degree of courage that I find pleasantly surprising given the sobriety of his demeanor , the temperance of his words, and his determination over the course of this stewardship of the PA to cooperate closely with both Israel and the US. But I applaud him and also note that this effort will be the pinnacle endeavor of his entire political career.
If the Palestinian statehood is requested in the UN Annual General Assembly, what do you think the probable results will be? Why?
The Palestinians appear to have a majority of votes in General Assembly to obtain whatever they ask of that body within the powers of the General Assembly prescribed by the Charter and by the relevant precedents as derived from past actions of the Assembly. The UN General Assembly has the capacity to grant the PLO observer state status, again opposed by both Israel and the US, and that seems like a certainty that they will receive that if it is requested.
I have read an argument of an international lawyer, whose name escapes me at the moment, to the effect that the General Assembly may resolve the very same issues brought before the Security Council in the case where the Security Council is deadlocked or unable to reach agreement. That would include the matter of UN recognitions of statehood. The same person also indicated that this route would probably not be particularly easy as it would involve a majority agreement of the members of the Security Council to send the issue to the General Assembly. But neither is it impossible since it appears that the US is the only member of the Council opposing Palestinian statehood and the PLO may just have the votes for this course. Not being an international lawyer, I shall say no more about this possibility except that the situation is novel in some respects and anything may happen.
It seems like the most probably eventuation is that the PLO will achieve observer state status conferred by the UN General Assembly after having been denied statehood in the Security Council due to a US veto.
The United States has clearly stated that will Veto the Palestinian statehood bid. How do you evaluate the behavior and the reactions of USA?
The United States, at the moment, is in the pocket of Israel. The Congress is intimidated and Obama’s only concern is his reelection. For that he knows he needs the Jewish vote and Jewish contributions to his campaign. He has abandoned his liberal and left of center political base for the larger center, which is where most elections are won. But he has always impressed me as a novice in foreign policy with no particularly deep feeling about foreign policy issues. He has never shown any indication which I have been able to discern that he has any significant knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or its history.
But I have not forgotten that Obama, during the 2008 campaign, went before AIPAC and said that Jerusalem should always be Israel’s undivided capital.
I can’t believe the US government takes the Iranian nuclear weapons threat seriously. The inspections of Iranian nuclear sites by the IAEA may not be perfect, but they none the less have provided an overwhelming preponderance of evidence that Iran is not in pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. I think it was 3 years ago that the US National Intelligence Estimate, which is an amalgam of 16 intelligence related agencies within the US government concluded that Iran had abandoned any ambitions of a the nuclear weapons program which it may have had some years before when it apparently purchased some weapons technology from A K Khan – really, the Pakistani government under Pervez Musharraf.
I also suspect that Israel intelligence does not see the Iranian nuclear program as an urgent cause for alarm. Israel is more concerned that the demise of the Saddam Hussein government in Baghdad freed Iran to occupy the vacuum thus created and extend its influence in the region. Iranian money and technology backs up Hezbollah in Lebanon. This is Israel’s only real military adversary in the region. Anything that can be done to weaken Iran would probably also weakens Hezbollah. If Israel could engineer a US attack on Iran and maybe overthrow the government, as it did Iraq, then Hezbollah would most likely falter. Fortunately, Obama has not taken the bate, as did his predecessor.
But the Obama administration is afraid to exhibit an open disagreement with the Netanyahu government and offend the Jewish voters and the Jewish campaign contributors, and for that matter the Christian Zionists who are no small force in America.
In passing, you might not know that Christian Zionism preceded, by 400 years, Jewish Zionism, which crystalized in the late 19th century, as one can find writings of Christian clergymen from the 1500’s promoting Jewish migration into Palestine. Jewish migration was even advocated, though briefly, by Napoleon.
Do you think if the Palestinian petition were to be successful, the Palestinian state to emerge would be a real, independent, and able to execute the functions of a normal state?
As I mentioned, the most likely result is that the PLO will be granted observer state status by the General Assembly. Israel will resist this every way it can, including denying that anything at all happened. Israel will certainly not have a change of heart and withdraw the Jewish settlements. Quite the contrary, it may even annex them.
Probably nothing will change on the ground immediately. But the State of Palestine will now be able to exercise powers unavailable to it previously, for example, pursuing torts against Israel’s criminal behavior in the International Court of Justice whereas before it lacked the standing to bring matters before the court.
What is of considerable importance, as I see it, is that Netanyahu will no longer be able to argue that the occupied territories of the West Bank and E Jerusalem are disputed territories, rather than illegally occupied territories. Netanyahu, and his expansionist zealots whom he represents do not even recognize that these territories are under occupation. If the occupied territories are merely disputed, then Israel is not compelled to give up anything in negotiations.
Such a declaration of statehood makes the occupation and the settlements and the segregated for-Jews-only by pass roads illegal and the Jewish settlers violators of Palestine’s sovereignty under international law and in the eyes of the international community.
Mr Netanyahu as well as the hard core Jewish settlers, Gush Enumin, in particular, do not recognize the legitimacy of the UN, though the founders of Israel were happy to accept UN Security Council Resolution 181 of 1947 which Israel claims is the foundation of its international legitimacy and is incorporated into Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
The hard core settlers –Gush Emunim, those following Rabbi Kook, and Rabbi Kahana, only recognize Halacha, or Judaic law, and what they feel is God’s covenant and God’s commanded duty to settle the land.
Thus UN recognition of statehood, even observer state status creates a sharper and more conspicuous breach between the international community and Israel, and the US, for that matter.
It is by no means surprising that Israel will resist with all their available diplomatic force the Palestinian UN initiative for a range of reasons comprising several different layers of urgency.
I think it is a positive development that this initiative in the UN highlights to the world the degree that the US and Obama are under the control of Israel, even to the extent of alienating must of the Arab world and exhibiting the dissonance between US policy and the spirit of liberation from tyranny exhibited in the Arab Spring.
Now the Palestine is divided into two separate geographical areas, the Gaza Strip and West Bank.. How these two separate parts are considered in this bid?.
Hamas is sitting back, watching the show, for now. It, of course, believes Israel is not a legitimate state and that the colonization of Palestine by European Jews should be reversed, ideally at least. It has offered Israel a truce of 20 years or longer, so for now, it is not actively trying to reverse the colonization of Palestine or directly challenge Israel’s existence.
Israel does not seem to care very much about taking over the Gaza strip. The most vital farm land and aquifers are on and under the West Bank and that land was the setting for Biblical literature and Judaic mythology.
It does have an economic interest in the waters just off the coast of Gaza where apparently there are many tens of thousands of cubic meters of natural gas deposits. Israel had no intention of allowing Palestinian access to those reserves.
Turkey’s announced intention of having a naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean is most likely seen by Israel a threat that would deny Israel unchallenged access to those reserves.
UN Resolutions 181 and 242 are the most well-known resolutions regarding Palestine. Would you please elaborate on their relation or effect to the present bid?
UN General Assembly Resolution 181 is an interesting document. This is the so-called ‘partition resolution’ of November 1947 which divides the land of Palestine more or less equally between a Jewish and an Arab state with Jerusalem set aside as a separate body to be administered by the United Nations. It reads very much like it was intended to be a prescription for an overall solution to the conflict between Jews and Arabs that was ongoing at that time. It is optimistic in its tone, and I am sure the authors sincerely believed they had found the formula for the resolution of a conflict which, in fact, continues to trouble the world to this day.
It was obviously intended to be a compromise which would satisfy all parties. In fact, it satisfied none, as the members of the United Nations discerned hardly before the ink had dried.
It reads very much like a liberal document speaking of the protection of minorities, proscribing discrimination on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, protection of holy places guaranteeing free access to all without discriminations, etc.
Absolutely nothing remains today, on the ground, of these liberal percepts.
The document attempted to do the impossible, combine a liberal enlightened philosophical prescription with illiberal Zionism which is based on racial exclusiveness and racial superiority within state boundaries.
Furthermore, the history of Zionism was ignored, as any discerning observer of the Zionist project should have well known that its intention was to take over all of Palestine and to institute a process of ‘transferring Arabs to neighboring states.
The Resolution unfairly gave half of Palestine to the Jews who, at that time, were only one third of the population and owned less than 6% of the land area of Palestine.
For the Palestinians, a body dominated by Europeans was giving half of their country to those whose roots were in eastern Europe and not in Palestine.
Half of Palestine was not at all what Ben Gurion and the founders of Israel wanted, but they were willing to accept 181 in order to legitimize the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine and then to take the remainder by force employing an army which they had been building for some years by the time of this resolution.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 was drafted and approved by the Security Council in the immediate aftermath of the ’67 War. It contains the significant phraseology, Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war … , and also, Affirms … Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; … .
None of this means a thing to Israel. Israel did not go to war for nothing.
During last 60 years, has expanded it domination to all of Palestine. What is the significance of Israel complete domination of Palestine in regard to the present situation?
It is perfectly clear from the history of Zionism, from the history of the ruling Lukud party in Israel, and especially from the history of Prime Minister Netanyahu that neither Netanyahu nor Israel intends to grant to the Palestinian a single square centimeter of Palestine.