Palestine inched closer to full recognition as a nation state following the United Nations’ decision to elevate its status from an “entity” to a “non-member state” on Thursday. Of course, as far as Indonesia and most other countries are concerned, Palestine, as represented by the Palestine Authority, is already a state in its own right, even if its borders are not recognized internationally. The new status in the United Nations implicitly recognizes Palestine as a state.
There must be no illusion however about full international recognition. We may be closer now, but we are still a long way before real peace can be achieved and Palestinians can have their own state independent of Israel.
The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted for the resolution granting a status similar to that enjoyed by the Vatican. Indonesia gave its endorsement along with 137 other countries. Not unexpectedly, Israel and the United States and seven other countries voted against the resolution while 41 others abstained.
Opponents of the resolution argue that the resolution will not change anything on the ground, but it is still a moral victory for Palestinians in their struggle for their own independent homeland. It is a reaffirmation of the strong international support for their cause.
The new status strengthens the hand of President Mahmoud Abbas; domestically in his struggle for power with the Hamas group which controls Gaza, and internationally in his dealings with Israel, especially if and when negotiations resume.
The resolution bucks the trend since 2008 when Israel and the Palestinian Authority moved further and further away from a possible peace deal. The recent clashes in Gaza — the launching of rockets into Israel and Israel’s air attacks — also meant that the extremists and hawks in both camps are rapidly gaining ground. Abbas desperately needs to shore up his own base support to be able to rein in the hardliners and regain the initiative for moderate Palestinians.
The resolution also strengthens the hand of the United Nations as a member of the peacemaking Quartet along with the US, Russia and the European Union. Clearly the Quartet has not been making much progress, and the General Assembly’s resolution is a signal that the rest of the world is getting impatient at this state of helplessness.
Thus strengthened, the United Nations must now take even more initiatives to push both Israelis and Palestinians to resume their negotiations, without delay.