Sunday, September 25, 2011

Goldstone Redux -- How Abba Mazen Was Forced by the US and Israel to Throw the Palestinians Under the Bus Again

Last year, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that the three major threats to Israel were: Iran, rockets sent against Israeli citizens, and...Goldstone. I kid you not. Even for a former furniture salesman, the hyperbole seemed remarkable. I mean, how much had Israel really suffered as  result of the Goldstone report, which came down hard on Israel (and Hamas) for Operation Cast Lead. Lo naim, akh lo nora ('Not pleasant, but not awful') is how I would summarize the effects of the Goldstone Report on the Israel public. After all, only the most dedicated Goldstone Report watchers know that the report has been buried in Geneva.

And why? Well, the US put considerable pressure on Mahmoud Abbas to leave it there, since nothing made Israel madder than the Goldstone report. It will be recalled that Abbas, after an earlier display of US pressure had agreed to an "independents expert committee" (led by Judge McGowan Davis), and a delay of accountability. As Jared Malsin put it last October

Last month, under US and Israeli pressure, the Palestinian Authority (PA), once again delayed the process of accountability. This came at a September 29 vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in which the PA backed a resolution to give Israel and Hamas officials in Gaza six more months to investigate crimes documented in Richard Goldstone's UN Fact Finding Missionreport. According to Palestinian and international human rights groups, the Palestinian Authority has decided that the Goldstone report must remain in Geneva, away from the relatively more powerful UN bodies in New York. This is a position identical to that of the US State Department, which wants to keep pressure off Israel during the newly re-launched political negotiations.

By adopting this position, rights groups say, the PA is placing itself in open conflict with the interests of its own people. "What's very clear now is that the PA wants the report to stay in Geneva," said Fred Abahams of Human Rights Watch. "We thought there was a lot of progress made in New York and this was a step backwards...with peace talks going, they don't want Goldstone anywhere near the agenda," Abrahams said on the phone from New York.

The PA has never been a fan of human rights. This it shares in common with Hamas and the Israeli government. So it's not surprising that the US, Israel, and the PA, can agree to ensure that Israeli war criminals won't be dragged before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes. Such maneuvers are "distractions" from the "peace process". 

And now, according to some observers, Mahmoud Abbas has done it again. He took the statehood bid to the United Nations Security Council, not against the wishes of the US and Israel, but in accordance with them. For had he gone to the General Assembly, he would have received an immediate upgrade of the Palestinians' status -- enough of an upgrade to be able to drag Israel before the ICC and other international organizations. This he could not get from the Security Council, not because of a potential US veto, but because the US  continues to place intense  pressure on a handful of states serving now on the Security Council. My hunch is that there will be no need for the US veto. If the subject ever comes to a vote -- a very big if -- the US will have been able to get what it wants.

The Statehood bid, like the Goldstone report, will likely be buried under the bus. But that doesn't mean that Abbas was wrong to go to the UN. In so far as the process has served to reveal the US and Israel as the neighborhood bullies (again), that can only weaken their prestige in the world. Who likes a bully?

And in the meantime, sumud, sumud, sumud. 


Anonymous said...

The General Assembly can only vote to admit nations to the United Nations; Palestine, and the PLO before it, are already observer members, if I'm not mistaken; I suppose the GA could re-admit it on an upgraded status, though. Beyond that, the GA can only recommend; none of its resolutions are binding. Going to the Security Council would actually be more effective for the PA; it has binding powers, and if their bid was vetoed it would most likely energize the Palestinians and their supporters behind Abbas and the PA.

I admit to being puzzled by the maneuvering happening in the UN, but I'm not exactly an expert.

On the subject of the ICC, I don't have many objections to your statement. However, Israel's reticence about the United Nations, in my opinion, isn't exactly unwarranted. Although it may act like a 'neighborhood bully' towards the Palestinians, the United Nations has acted like a street gang with legal authority towards it; 'Zionism is Racism' is only the tip of the iceberg.

Rick said...

Hmmm... I don't get this. I may be wrong but my understanding is that going to the Security Council and going to the General Assembly are not mutually exclusive. I've assumed that the PA's plan is that after the US twists enough arms in the SC and delays a vote lone enough and throws the statehood bid under a bus in the SC, eventually the Security Council will vote NO (probably without the US having the issue a veto), and then the PA will present its application to the GA. Your remarks imply that they can do only one or the other.

Since Abbas made the decision to go first to the SC, I've always seen it as the kind of politics of imagery and symbols that all good political agents engage in. It gets the wind at their backs. After the US does its arm-twisting and we get to NO vote in the SC, then they go to the General Assembly.

I don't at all see the harm in first going to the Security Council or why it represents a selling out of Palestinian rights.

Am I wrong? Does the SC bid preclude going to the GA?

Tobias said...

It's a little more complicated. There is a difference between an observer "entity" and an observer nation. Upgrading Palestine to the latter status woud be a large step, though of course not as large as admitting it to the UN outright.

Unknown said...

Dr. Haber,

I am seeking some help with locating a quote I once read from the early Zionist movement. I believe it was by Herzl, but I could be mistaken. In essence, the quote said that God had abandoned the Jews, and the only ones who will care for them are the Jews themselves.

Can you point me in the right direction for this?

Thank you in advance