What Nauru?

Palestinians hold a giant flag during a rally in front of Israel's controversial barrier in the West Bank city of Bethlehem November 29, 2012. (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

Many Palestinians spent Thursday celebrating the historic vote in the U.N.’s General Assembly, which granted Palestine the status of a non-member observer state.

A natural response to this step would be to highlight where the Palestinians should go from here, but a few things should be mentioned beforehand.

One is that Israel has already embarked on its next step. Relying on its usual policy of thumbing its nose at any stance by the international community it does not like, the Israeli government has decided to build 3,000 new housing units for settlers in an obvious response to the General Assembly vote.

Second, the New York vote highlighted the overwhelming support for the move by the international community. True, 41 countries abstained, but they did not feel strongly enough to oppose the move. It was understandable to see Germany, due to its “moral issue” with Israel, decline to support the Palestinians bid.

But one should remember that the ranks of the nine countries voting “no” include four tiny Pacific island nations that are satellites of the U.S., and their voting track records can bear out how dependent they are on Washington. These four countries – and please prepare to hit Google – are Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau and Nauru.

The mighty Palau, with its population of around 20,000 people, dwarfs Nauru, which has just over 9,000 inhabitants. Altogether, these four countries, constituting just under half of the “no” bloc, have a population of around 200,000, or only a portion of Gaza. That they hold enough weight to double the size of a U.N. vote against Palestinian statehood, which represents millions of people, is a travesty.

As for the Palestinians, their “morning after” reflection on their achievement at the U.N. should include the following: how to prepare for the peace negotiations that are being asked of them by some of their supporters and how to achieve a long-awaited internal reconciliation, between Fatah and Hamas.

Throughout the lobbying efforts in the run-up to the vote, the Israelis demonstrated how terrified they are that their nationals might be prosecuted in international courts for violations against the Palestinians.

It would be just as frightening for them to see a Palestinian side that acts quickly to ready its negotiating stance, by consulting allies and producing a winning “game plan.” An inter-Palestinian reconciliation would be just as frightening for the Israelis.

As for the international community, the countries that supported Palestine should remember Israel’s dismissive response to Thursday’s vote, as well as the long list of U.N. resolutions that Tel Aviv has violated in the past.

They responded positively to the serious and principled Palestinian diplomatic efforts made during the last few weeks and months. How will they respond to Israel’s cavalier and unprincipled snub of the U.N.’s latest act?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 01, 2012, on page 7.




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