Supporting Palestine at the UN Today Is a Vote for Peace in the Middle East

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The Guardian/UK

Supporting Palestine at the UN Today Is a Vote for Peace in the Middle East

Countries that do not vote with Palestine will be on the wrong side of history, morality and international law

It might seem stating the obvious that Palestinians and Israelis find solutions only through negotiation, until you look at the record. It is a story in which one side makes proposals for nothing in return; one side makes agreements that the other side breaks; and one side keeps commitments that the other side ignores.

Take a recent decision by Israel to approve 100 new homes for its Jewish citizens in the illegal settlement of Gilo, when the Israeli army was bombarding and shelling Gaza. This (along with numerous other settlement decisions by Israel) constitutes a clear breach of signed agreements and of international humanitarian law.

Today we return to the UN general assembly, the world's largest multinational arena, where each of 193 states has a vote of equal value and none has a veto. Supporting our bid for enhanced status at the UN is a vote for the universal values of human rights embodied in the UN charter. Opposing it would make the Palestinian people the glaring exception to universal human rights, denying us the right to self-determination. Ironically, it would constitute a collective punitive measure against us for pursuing our freedom peacefully on the basis of international law and in adherence to what should be a global rule of law.

The question the international community should ask is not who wants negotiations, but who wants solutions. The answer is clear – one side wants to negotiate a permanent solution and the other wants permanent negotiations.

We are as far from having a serious peace partner than at any time since we began this "process". The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, at best views negotiations in the context of photo opportunities and handshakes to improve his international image and keep public opinion quiet. At worst he exploits the "process" to continue settlement expansion, the annexation of Jerusalem, and the "enjoyment" of an American-led legal cover to enable him to act with impunity. This, in fact, represents a severe provocation to our people who have been on the receiving end of such an enormous injustice without responding violently or illegally. While we have met our commitments, Israel continues to renege on its obligations and to build on the 22% of the remaining Palestinian land designated for the free sovereign state of Palestine.

Think for a moment of the absurdity of telling an occupied people to achieve their independence only by politely asking the occupier to kindly allow them to be free. While the world tunes out, Israel will continue its oppressive occupation with its continued settlement building and confiscation of land and resources, its control of everyday life with checkpoints and incursions, and its manipulation of the global political agenda by resorting to violence as the only solution, however futile it has proven itself to be.

Keeping this in mind, is it really any surprise that we Palestinians have decided to adopt the non-violent, diplomatic and multilateral legal approach of pursuing this status at the UN, to be accorded our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our own country?

Rather than being perceived as a substitute for negotiations, our efforts are consistent with the international community's objective of achieving a peaceful solution whereby Palestine and Israel can live side by side in peace and security. This aim will never be achieved by giving one of these states a veto on the other's existence. We are trying to create momentum for progress and credibility for legal and political solutions. Negotiations can work only if Israel is given a clear signal that it must abide by the laws of nations and the values of humanity at large.

We are resolute in our decision to apply for observer-state status. Now is the time for the international community to act on its words and help us bring an end to the occupation. For those countries, like the UK, that are still wavering, it must be stressed that if they choose not to vote with Palestine they will find themselves on the wrong side of history, let alone morality, justice and international law. Israel is deliberately destroying the two-state solution, as well as the chances for peace and security in the region and beyond. It is high time that all those countries that recognise the urgency of the moment become fully engaged in ending the cruel and illegal occupation and enabling the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination and sovereignty and to live in freedom and dignity on their own land.

Hanan Ashrawi

Hanan Ashrawi is a Palestinian politician. She is a member of the PLO executive committee and the Palestine legislative council as well as being head of the PLO department of culture and information

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