domingo, 23 de diciembre de 2012

PALESTINE NEW STATUS AT UNITED NATIONS: A LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE



Picture: Delegation of Palestine last November 29, 2012, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, from Sabbah.



During its last session, United Nations General Assembly adopted last November 29, 2012 draft resolution A/67/l.28 on the new status of Palestine at the United Nations, a draft presented by 60 States. Following the preamble, the resolution states that:

The General Assembly,

1. Reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967;

2. Decides to accord to Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations, without prejudice to the acquired rights, privileges and role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United Nations as the representative of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions and practice;

3. Expresses the hope that the Security Council will consider favourably the application submitted on 23 September 2011 by the State of Palestine for admission to full membership in the United Nations;

4. Affirms its determination to contribute to the achievement of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and the attainment of a peaceful settlement in the Middle East that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfils the vision of two States: an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with Israel on the basis of the pre-1967 borders
“.

It should be noted that among the 60 states proposing this draft resolution (Note 1) no member State of the European Union appeared (Note 2), while Latin America participated with Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. On its side, the African continent supported the initiative with: South Africa, Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

SUCCESIVE VOTES BEFORE UNITED NATIONS

The final result of the vote of this resolution (138 votes in favor, 9 against and 41 abstentions) must be compared to the very first attempt made in 1989 by Palestine to be considered as a member of a specialized agency of the United Nations: at that time the application for admission before the WHO was rejected by 83 votes against, 47 in favor and 20 abstentions. A second request for admission made the same year of 1989 before UNESCO (see text of the application) was postponed due to the threat of the United States not to return to UNESCO if Palestine get successful. It took almost 22 years (October 2011) to obtain the status of Palestine at UNESCO as a full member with 107 votes for, 14 against and 52 abstentions.

With respect to the November 29 vote, many of the 41 abstentions were decided during very last hours, like Australia: "Australia had been scheduled to vote against the Palestinian motion, but a last-minute shift in caucus saw Prime Minister Julia Gillard forced into an abstention in Friday's vote" (see press release) and some other abstentions suddenly decided, like Germany and the Netherlands (see press release). The abstention of Germany has been denounced by Israel, possibly extremely surprised (see press release). A recent note published in November 29, 2012 edition of The Washington Post showed strategic changes of some European Union States on the occasion of the last two votes at the United Nations (October 2011 and November 2012): for example Sweden (voting against the admission of Palestine á the UNESCO but for new status of Palestine before the United Nations) or Ukraine using in both cases the "no-show" option (absence of delegates during the vote), among others. TWP also refers to an extremely inusual proposal made by British diplomacy to Palestinian authorities: the United Kingdom was ready to vote in favor of the text in exchange of guarantees of Palestine not to access the International Criminal Court (ICC) mechanism: "The U.K. suggested that it might vote “yes” if the Palestinian Authority offered assurances that it wouldn’t pursue charges in the International Criminal Court, but apparently came away unsatisfied" reported The Washington Post, usually well informed.

LATIN AMERICA ´S VOTE:

Details of the vote of November 29, 2012 indicates that Panama is the only country in Latin America to follow the United States and Israel with six other states to vote against it (Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Czech Republic). We must recall that last year, President Martinelli of Panama was decorated by American Jewish Congress (AJC) as "Light unto The Nations" (see press release) due to the fact, among others, that: "Martinelli, after his election in 2009, fulfilled a campaign promise to review Panama's voting record on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the UN and other international forums" reported the same press release of Reuters. More explicit, AJC press release refers that: " Panama was the only country in Latin America, and one of only seven worldwide, which voted against the UN resolution requesting that the Security Council accept the recommendations of the controversial Goldstone report, which sharply condemned Israel for alleged actions during its campaign against Hamas in Gaza in 2009 "

Among the 41 abstentions, we find Colombia and Guatemala (which is not a surprise) as well as Haiti and Paraguay, which is a true novelty (Note 3). Concerning the american hemisphere we must observe that Canada's decision to join this group of states has been the subject of criticism, including from a human rights jewish NGO publicly denouncing the decision of Prime Minister Harper. It should be noted that last year, when Palestine announced a possible application for the admission as a full member of the United Nations, most of the Heads of Latinamerican countries supported the initiative in their official speeches before UN General Assembly in September 2011 (with the exception of Colombia, Guatemala and Panama), while the President of Costa Rica suddenly seemed uncertain: it is true that she had received a few weeks before a letter from two US Republican senators, and met with Israeli Prime Minister a few hours before his speech in New York, as well as Palestinian officials. On this unexpected indecision of Costa Rica in september 2011, see our article asking the question: Has Shifted Costa Rica Strategy on Palestine?).The last number of the Review Al Kubri, No. 6, (October-December 2012) published by the Centro de Estudios de Medio Oriente y Norte de África (CEMOAN) in Costa Rica, refers to different reactions in Latin America after 29 November vote in New York.

THE CASE OF COSTA RICA

Costa Rica constitutes indeed a special case in Latin America. Traditionally linked to U.S. interests and those of Israel, its votes at the United Nations reflect its alignment for many decades on Washington's positions on Middle East discussion. In 2006, the Costa Rican authorities have decided to redefine their position vis-à-vis the Arab world and especially towards Palestine. In February 2008, Costa Rica decided to recognize Palestine as a state entity and establish diplomatic relations with the authorities. Both Israeli and US diplomacies seem been unable to have sime kind of information and the new "came as a complete suprise": a Wikileaks cable made public in march 2011 in Costa Rica says: " On February 5, GOCR (Government of Costa Rica) Permrep Jorge Urbina exchanged notes in New York with Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour, formalizing Costa Rica,s recognition of the ""state"" of Palestine. The MFA in San Jose issued a release eight hours later confirming the news, which came as a complete surprise to most local diplomatic missions (including Post)“ (see full text availabe here).

The official statement from Costa Rica dated February 5, 2008 reads as follows: "Costa Rica has recognized the State of Palestine February 5, 2008, honoring a historical debt, especially that of having been a 33 states that have voted in favor of the partition plan of Palestine. In this sense, Costa Rica believes that the international community should actively contribute to the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, generalizing this recognition". The establishment of official relations with Palestine by Costa Rica is the start point of recent recognition of Palestinian state bay many other States. After February 2008, there has been a cascade of America awards in the following order: Venezuela (April 2009), Dominican Republic (July 2009), Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay (December 2010), Peru and Chile (January 2011), Argentina (February 2011), Uruguay (March 2011), El Salvador and Honduras (August 2011), which must be added the recognition of Cuba (1988) and Nicaragua (1988). We must note that West Carribean countries also supported this movement recognizing Palestine as a State: Guyana (January 2011), Suriname (February 2011), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (August 2011), Belize and Dominica (Commonwealth of) (September 2011). The diplomatic correspondance revealed by Wikileaks is quite clear about the perception of political advisors at the United States Embassy in San José: "a well-reasoned rationale for recognizing" State of Palestine, taking into account Costa Rica's yes A vote on Resolution 181 and the GOCR (Government of Costa Rica) desire to give a strong backing to show of Abbas, in the face of Hamas ": this diplomatic cable is quoted by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica (2006-2010) Bruno Stagno, during his speech at a symposium celebrated by the United Nations (end of March 2011) at Montevideo on Latin America and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This text is extremely clear about the strong will of Costa Rican authorities at that time to make a difference on this issue. It states in particular that. "I think we've all had the opportunity to listen to a Quartet and we can all make the difference between masters and amateurs of chamber music. The Quartet on the Middle East is the only quartet in which three musicians play each one a different musical score while the fourth´s one desperately looks for his own score "(see text presented by Bruno Stagno in Spanish).

The Israeli response to this recognition by Costa Rica in February 2008 deserves to be mentioned because it will reappear in many other forums and official speeches from other States. "Establishing relationships with a State which is not one, constitutes a threat to development of definitive agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, goes against the Roadmap, the Quartet activities and other efforts for peace. These actions go against the agreements, including those of the international community and could affect the peace efforts between the two parties "(free translation of the autho: see the interview published in La Prensa Libre (Costa Rica) of 28/02/2008 of Ehud Eitam, Israel's ambassador to Costa Rica).

it is quite clear that US diplomats in Costa Rica had no information nor any informal consultation on what was being decided by Costa Rica on this issue: in another Wikileaks cable, we read that: " The no-notice, no-consultation way this decision was announced is also in keeping with the foreign policy decision making style of this second Arias administration » (Internal diplomatic note of 19/02/2008 available here. Politically speaking, the strategy of "fait accompli" held by costarican diplomacy in these years is an unusual exercise, due to the fact that it is extremely rare to have US diplomats posted not being informed in Central America.

NEW PERSPECTIVES FOR PALESTINE AT THE UNITED NATIONS

In a recent article published in La República (Costa Rica), the same Bruno Stagno, who was also President of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC (2005-2008), wrote, "Beyond the importance of decision regarding the determination of Palestine, it also has legal and political effects on potential peace negotiations in the Middle East. For the first time in its history, Palestine will have the opportunity to accede to international treaties, including the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court "(Note 5). The open letter signed by prominent international lawyers on "The effects of the recognition of Palestine within the jurisdiction of the ICC," dated May 2010 (see full document) will probably be read many times after November 29. In this connection we must recall that French Professor David Ruzié reported just before the French elections of 2012 that things could change for the Israeli authorities: " En revanche, la menace de voir Israël mis en cause devant la CPI serait grande si la France reprenait l’idée émise par le président (actuellement) candidat Nicolas Sarkozy, lors de son discours devant l’Assemblée générale en septembre dernier, visant à accorder à la « Palestine » le statut d’ « Etat non membre », analogue à celui reconnu à la Suisse avant son admission dans l’Organisation. Certes, la « Palestine » ne serait pas « Etat membre », mais sa qualité d’Etat non-membre » impliquerait celle d’ « Etat » avec toutes les conséquences qui en découleraient au regard de la CPI " /FREE TRANSLATION/ "However, the threat of Israel challenged before the ICC would be more significant if France take up the suggestion by the president (currently) candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, in his speech to the General Assembly last September, to give "Palestine" status "non-member state", analogous to the status recognized to Switzerland before his admission into the organization. Certainly, "Palestine" is not "Member State", but the quality of non-member State "mean the" State "with all the ensuing consequences in terms of the ICC" (see his article "The ICC and "Palestine", "April 2012, in French). Resolution adopted on 29 November 2012 in New York now allows Palestine (despite the United States, Israel and their 7 allies and despite a clumsy British diplomacy, inelegantly explicit on this point ...), to be a little closer, as a State, of the United Nations system, including human rights international trraties: in particular those relating to international criminal justice.

CONCLUSIONS

On 23 September 2011, the Palestine formally requested its admission to the United Nations. At the day of today, Security Council has not ruled on this request. The announcement of the use of the veto of the United States aside for the moment the recognition of Palestine as a full member state recognized as such. But legally speaking, this last 29 november resolution gives now Palestine the opportunity to accede as a State to international law as a whole. As pointed out by Professor John Cerone in last Insights of the American Society of International Law, « Ultimately, whether or not the General Assembly vote was sufficient to affirm the statehood of Palestine in general or to satisfy statutory requirements in the context of the ICC, it will likely have a snowball effect. The resolution increases the ability of Palestine to act like a state. The more it does so, the more clearly Palestine will satisfy the criteria for statehood. The train to statehood has clearly left the station ».

Politically speaking, it is interesting to note that the reference in the text adopted on 29 November of 1947 Resolution 181 is not insignificant, quite the contrary, it is in every way remarkable. French Professor Philippe Weckel, has rightly pointed out in a recent analysis: " Occupées avec des hochets comme la saisine de la Cour pénale internationale, les délégations n’ont rien vu venir (nous non plus). Elles n’ont pas réagi au surgissement de la résolution 181 de 1947, comme la Statue du Commandeur, un deus ex machina convoqué par un habile sorcier. Le Président Abbas a réussi une véritable prouesse diplomatique : ce qui ne devait être qu’une pauvre compensation à l’échec provisoire de l’admission en tant que membre de l’ONU a été complètement retourné à l’avantage de la partie palestinienne pour constituer un véritable titre comme l’a été la Résolution 181 pour Israël »" This reference to the text of 1947 should also mean the recognition of a historic debt towards Palestine, not only of Costa Rica or of Latin America States, but of the international community as such.

As extremely well said by another French Professor Jean Salmonm in his conclusions of an article published in 1988, "reconnaître l´Etat palestinien n´est sans soute rien de plus que l´affirmation du droit du peuple palestinien à créer aussitôt que possible cet Etat, mais c´est surtout poser un acte de solidarité à l égard du peuple palestinien et de volonté de respect du droit international"(Note 6).



Note 1: The following 60 States pressented the draft resolution: Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, China, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen, Zimbabwe and Palestine.

Note 2: It should be noted with regard to the European continent, the presence in this group of 60 States of Iceland and Turkey, which had early (June 2011) announced its strong support for the recognition by the United Nations of the Palestinian state: see press note.

Note 3: In the case of Paraguay, the vote seems to be related, according to a press Paraguay, with a contract with the Israeli authorities signed a month before. See note press of E'A

Note 4: Article Bruno Stagno: Palestina to the ICC, La Republica (Costa Rica) of 12.03.2012. Reproduced (text in Spanish) at the end of this link.

Note 5: To our knowledge, there is no a systematic study of the Costa Rican pattern of vote on Middle East issue at the various UN bodies which have been made public, but a few examples can give an idea: in Professor Paul Tavernier "Chronique" in 1997, it says for example that the United States opposed in the Security Council their veto on two resolutions relating to housing construction in East Jerusalem is: in one of them, "the second project (S/1997/241) collects 13 votes against 1 (USA) and one abstention (Costa Rica) (SPV/3756)"; see 43, AFDI (1997), p. 510, note 47. In his article on the Balfour Declaration, Professor Jean Salmon indicated that the resolution 43/176 adopted on 15 December 1988 in Geneva entitled "Question of Palestine" was adopted by 138 votes in favor, 2 against (U.S. and Israel) 2 abstentions (Canada and Costa Rica)": see J. SALMON, "La proclamation de l´Etat Palestinien" 34, AFDI (1988), p. 37-62, p. 38.

Note 6: See J. SALMON, op.cit, p. 62.





ADDITIONAL NOTE: this text is also available in French at this link. An academic version has been published in the Bulletin "Sentinelle" of the Société Française pour le Droit International (SFDI), Number 329, January 2013: this first Bulletin of 2013 includes an analysis of Professor Philippe Weckel on an innovation at UN Secrutity Council from United States delegates: the "implicit veto" that took place during December 19, 2012 session of United Nations Security COuncil on new settlements of Israel in Palestine.

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