Britain should distance itself from the US position on Palestine

The US has been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that there is no consensus between the 15 Security Council nations on the Palestinian application for UN membership. They appear to have been successful.

The council’s admissions committee says the council is divided among those who support Palestinian membership, those who can’t support it now and therefore would abstain, and those who believe the application doesn’t meet the criteria for membership and oppose it. They are therefore unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council.

The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki blamed the United States, Israel’s closest ally, for pressuring council members “to dissuade them from voting for the Palestinian quest.” He has said that the Palestinians would not now be calling for an immediate vote on membership.

The Palestinians need nine ‘yes’ votes for the application to be put to the vote. They believe they have eight, and this despite the efforts of the US. Britain intends to abstain. It should not, it should vote ‘yes’. Although the Palestinians have said that they have decided not to ask the Security Council to vote – the US will veto the application anyway – Britain should take the opportunity to put down a marker and distance itself from the US position.

It should do so for three reasons. Firstly, because as a European permanent member of the Security Council it would flag up in a very clear and unambiguous way that Europe is prepared to distance itself from the US and take the lead in any future peace negotiations. (America’s close relationship with Israel has surely forfeited its right to a lead role in future negotiations.)

Secondly, the US stance will weaken the position of Mahmoud Abbas and amplify the differences between Fatah and  Hamas. This is exactly what Netyanyahu wants. He wants division so that he can side-step negotiations and continue his colonisation of the Occupied territories. A ‘yes’ vote from Britain (and hopefully France could be persuaded to join us?) would signal our future intentions, support Abbas, and frustrate Netanyahu’s attempt to promote division in the Palestinian camp.

Thirdly, it would completely change the dynamic in any future negotiations. Over forty years of jaw, jaw have produced the square root of nothing, and it’s time that was changed. This is an opportunity to provoke change.

Let’s see what Mr Hague has to say today. Don’t get too excited.

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