A state at last: A Palestinian Christian youth hangs up the national flag on a cross as others pray at St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church, also know as the Church of the Ten Lepers, in the West Bank village of Burqin near the town of Jenin, on Friday. Palestinians celebrated the U.N. General Assembly votes on a resolution to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to a nonmember observer state. (AP/Mohammed Ballas)
The Indonesian government has hailed the United Nations’ de facto recognition of a Palestinian state, as the new status accorded substantial political symbolism for Palestinians and world diplomacy.
“The UN approval for Palestine’s new status is a significant political symbol in diplomacy … By according observer state status to Palestine, we are signaling the primacy of diplomacy over violence,” Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said on Friday, referring to the result of the UN vote.
Marty said that from the very beginning, Indonesia had supported the Palestinian struggle, but it had not only voted for Palestine’s new status but had also initiated a path toward resolution with other countries as cosponsors.
“Despite the enormous barriers erected by the occupying power [Israel], Palestinians have diligently and with great resolve built their capacity to function as a state, ready to stand equal along all other states,” Marty said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post.
The UN General Assembly voted on Friday to grant Palestine non-member observer state status. It is an upgrade for the Palestinian Authority’s observer status at the UN from “entity” to “non-member state”, the same status that the Vatican holds.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 138 in favor to nine against with 41 abstentions by the 193 UN member states. Three countries did not take part in the vote, which was held on the 65th anniversary of the adoption of UN resolution 181 that partitioned Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
Marty underscored that the resolution meant the time had come for the international community to set things right. “No longer can the world turn a blind eye to the long sufferings of the Palestinian people, the denial of their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, the obstruction of their rights to self determination and to independence,” he said before the vote.
Indonesia reiterated its hope that Palestine’s application to the UN for full membership would be favorably considered. “We hold that Palestine’s full membership is consistent with the shared vision of a two-state solution.”
Marty also stressed the need for Palestine to enhance their inter-Palestinian dialogue at this very historic moment.
Indonesia assumes the position that the final aim is the full independence of Palestine living peacefully side-by-side with Israel based on a two-state solution, and not the dissolution of the latter.
Granting Palestinians the title of “non-member observer state” falls short of full UN membership — something the Palestinians also failed to achieve last year. But it does have important legal implications — it will allow them access to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international bodies, should they choose to join.
“We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel; rather, we came to affirm the legitimacy of the state that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine,” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, told the assembly before the vote, as quoted by Reuters.
Russia, China, India, Brazil and at least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain.
The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the US, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.
The UN victory for the Palestinians was a diplomatic setback for the US and Israel.
Britain called on the US to use its influence to help break the long impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Washington also called for a revival of direct negotiations.
The assembly approved the upgrade despite threats by the US and Israel to punish the Palestinians by withholding funds for the West Bank government. UN envoys said Israel might not retaliate harshly against the Palestinians over the vote as long as they did not seek to join the ICC.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote unfortunate and counterproductive.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded quickly, condemning Abbas’ critique of Israel as “hostile and poisonous”, and full of “false propaganda”.
“These are not the words of a man who wants peace,” Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office.
Peace talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world. There are 4.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel and the Palestinians to find the “political will and courage” to move ahead with talks aimed at establishing a lasting peace between them through Palestinian statehood and security for Israel.
The Vatican praised the vote, while calling for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.