The UN General Assembly vote on the status of Palestine draft resolution had been preceded by debates launched by Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli diplomat Ron Prosor. They exchanged mutual accusations. The head of Palestine Autonomy dubbed Israel an «apartheid system of colonial occupation» and accused it of «racism… ethnic cleansing… war crimes… barbarity… murder». Turning a deaf ear on the ovations the Abbas words were greeted with, Prosor responded by calling Palestine’s' UN bid a «march of folly». Noting that his resolution did not recognize Israel as a «Jewish state» or guarantee its security, he said, “it is so one-sided, it doesn't advance peace, it pushes it backwards».
The bickering and the following speeches hardly influenced the outcome of the vote that displayed broad support for the resolution. There were only nine “no” votes: Israel and the USA were joined by Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, and four tiny Pacific island nations. There were more undecided states with 41 abstentions. 92 votes were enough to make the resolution pass. It was adopted by a vote of 138 in favor, including 14 out of 27 European Union members (1) and almost all the Community of Independent States. The result testifies to the fact that the support of Palestine has increased during the past year. One can make a comparison with the Palestine UNESCO membership vote in October 2011, for instance. Back then the vote was carried by 107 votes in favor of admission and 14 votes against, with 52 abstentions. The same tendency is evident within the framework of European Union. There was a great diversity of draft resolution authors: China and India, all Arab and almost all South American and many African states, large Muslim counties (Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey), five members of Community of Independent States (Belorussia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), Cuba and North Korea. Totally there were 63 countries on the authors list.
The change allows the Palestinians to participate in General Assembly annual debates. It also improves the Palestinians' chances of joining UN agencies, especially the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. That’s exactly what stokes concern in Israel, many European Union members followed Germany calling to refrain from exercising this right. Italy says it voted “yes” only upon getting the assurances from Palestine it would not lodge complaints against Israel with the Hague Court. To the contrary, Great Britain changed its mind on “yes” vote receiving no such assurances. The contradictory reports show how complicated the decision making process was in each separate case. According to media, there were swing voters among the European Union members. For instance Poland along with Great Britain and Italy. It ended up abstaining. EU Foreign Policy Chief Katherine Ashton wanted the EU to abstain, but the proposal did not pass through due to a number of members expressing their support for Palestine. The Germany’s decision came quite unexpected, it had not been among the undecided states, there had been no doubt the Germans would support Israel. The country’s Foreign Ministry had said it would abstain just before the General Assembly’s session. The Berlin’s demarche can be construed as a rather tentative departure from unconditional support of Jewish state conditioned by payoff for the Holocaust victims. Though American political scholars prefer not to notice it, they say the Germany’s stance is first of all explained by economic reasons. According to Stephen Szabo, Executive Director of the Transatlantic Academy (TAA), which is in partnership with the German Marshall Fund, “I think only in the sense that Germany has major markets in the broader Middle East, particularly the Gulf, and that it needs to be careful about alienating Arab public opinion and Arab elites as well.”(2) The Dutch followed the Germans example: they were going to say no at first, but changed their mind and abstained while voting. The Czechs were the only ones in the European Union adamant over their pro-Israeli stand. And they are not afraid to be left in splendid isolation inside the European Union. Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus puts a good face on his euroscepticism. For instance, the Czech government has announced recently no Czech Republic representative would attend the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union scheduled to take place in Stockholm. No doubt it is an act of defiance (though a well-founded one) as the rejection of the European Union’s contribution into world politics. By insistently adhering to the pro-Israeli course, the Czech Republic often presents it as traditional feature of its foreign policy, that takes its root from the support rendered to Israel since it came into being (the Czech Republic supplied it with arms during the first Arab-Israeli war). When the last Arab-Israeli conflict was on the rise, Czech Republic Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg maintained a ground operation in Gaza would be justified once the shelling of Israel continued. Prague’s formal explanation of its stand on the issue was that HAMAS doesn’t recognize the Israel’s right to exist. Actually it repeats the US and Israel’s view: granting observer State status to Palestine will not facilitate finding a solution to the problem.
True, the Czech Republic did recognize the state of Palestine along with other states of the socialist camp like: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. But it goes back to 1988, the days of socialist epoch, when Eastern followed the example of the USSR. Now these countries find it more convenient to dance to the tune of Brussels and Washington.
Needless to say there is no common stance of the Community of Independent States (CIS). Five of them joined the pool of the draft resolution authors, but the fact has no relation to their CIS membership. Perhaps, it was more important for Azerbaijan to stick together with Turkey and for three Central Asia’s states (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) to make remember they are part of Muslim world while Belorussia demonstrates its anti-Americanism based on principle. Moldova is the only CIS member that didn’t vote in support of Palestine (Ukraine didn’t take part in voting), its stand appears to be another manifestation by the ruling Moldova’s Alliance for European Integration. Mihai Ghimpu, the leader of Liberal Party making up part of the Alliance, has recently proposed to officially recognize Transdniestria as “the territory occupied by Russia”. Brussels encourages this stance. José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, went to visit Chisinau the next day after the UN vote took place. According to him Moldova is to receive six million euros to modernize its healthcare and €5 million for implementation of educational programs.
The UN General Assembly’s vote on the status of Palestine is a good example of the international correlation of forces. One should not miss the main thing: the observer state status is a step on the way of full-fledged membership. Since 1946 Switzerland enjoyed the same status as Palestine has now. It became a UN member in 2002. Initially Austria, Finland and Japan were UN observer states… Of course, at first Palestine may face some financial difficulties: Israel has already suspended work permits, the USA threatens to stop financial aid (like it was in 2011, when the United States, Israel, Canada and Poland stopped financing UNESCO after Palestine was granted the membership). Still, money is not always the main thing. Besides Palestine is not going to be left without outside help: no matter it faces financial troubles, the European Union promises to allocate 350 million euros for Palestinians, and the League of Arab Nations is to come up with 100 million dollars monthly assistance.