As expected, the vote in the UN’s General Assembly on granting observer status to the Palestinian Authority as “a non-member state” has passed by 138 votes to 9, with 41 abstentions. The abstentions are more than I expected, but they were nowhere near enough to counter the automatic anti-Israel majority that exists in the UN.
Kudos to The Times of Israel which has been live-blogging the vote, and has brought us the texts of the speeches of Palestinian President (or is he chairman?) Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has won the approval of the United Nations General Assembly for ‘Palestine’ as a nonmember state, a dramatic move that may have wide-reaching implications. Though Israel and the US vociferously opposed the move, it passed by a wide margin
Some other highlights:
The US has been Israel’s staunchest backer against the statehood gambit, with talk of Congress even cutting off funding to the PA or UN should the Palestinians get nonmember state status.
Writing in Congressional news outlet The Hill, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, calls for the US to cut allotments to the Palestinian Authority and force Abbas to open up the PA’s books.
“Yes, the Palestinians may be successful today and no, the U.S. does not have veto power in a UN General Assembly vote, but there still can and should be consequences for the irresponsible actions of President Abbas and his old cronies,” he writes. “Last year, we gave the Palestinian Authority $495 million. In the same timeframe, President Abbas’ office budget was $72 million yet he refuses to tell us or anyone else how he spends it. There are even press reports that his own salary is $1 million a month. According to their own documents, the Palestinian Authority spent $194 million last year alone on offices that helped promote the Palestinians’ push for recognition at the UN. The U.S. should immediately cut funding to the PLO by at least $72 million next year and require President Abbas to open up his budget for all to see. The days of giving money away to other nations with no transparency and no consequences for irresponsible behavior should be over.”
Israelis are rather blasé about the whole situation. For them there is nothing new under the sun at the UN.
21:36 With international attention on the United Nations and Thursday’s vote on Palestinian statehood, Israelis are spending the moments before the meeting watching basketball, or the popular investigative program Kolbotec on TV.
And now back to regular programming.
22:47 “The assembly is called upon to grant Palestine the status of nonmember observer state,” the Sudanese representative says twice, while reading off the resolution in Arabic.
“Independence, freedom the right to self determination, these are principles enshrined by the UN charter,” he adds, and mentions that the resolution has taken a long time to get to the UN — referencing the world body’s partition resolution from 65 years ago.
“The eyes of all the children of Palestine are directed toward us,” he says.
22:48 Abbas begins his speech. Text to follow below. Some highlights (or rather, lowlights):
23:12 “The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” he says, before ending his speech to applause.
To remind you – Palestine could have had its birth certificate 65 years ago to the day, but they rejected it. As Elder of Ziyon posted on Twitter:
23:36 The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office releases a statement in response to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s UN speech, saying that the world just witnessed a “hate speech dripping with venom, full with false propaganda against the IDF and the people of Israel. A person who wants peace doesn’t speak like that.”
23:15 Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor took to the floor. The text of his speech will follow below.
“I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today: No decision by the U.N. can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel,” Prosor says, earning a modest round of clapping.
23:34 The Foreign Minister of Canada, Israel’s staunchest ally, takes to the floor.
23:37 Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird adds that “the people of the region have suffered for seven decades” because of the Arabs’ refusal to accept the partition plan. He calls for Israel and Palestinians to work together to find a peaceful solution.
23:43 Baird says the move will do nothing to advance peace for both sides, which Canada supports.
“We cannot support an initiative that we are firmly convinced will undermine … a just settlement for both sides,” Baird says.
He adds that Canada will be considering “next steps” in the wake of the “regrettable” move.
00:04 Benjamin Netanyahu calls UN ambassador Prosor, congratulating him for his speech at the General Assembly: “I am proud of you. You spoke the truth about the state of Israel. This was a speech of facts, as opposed to Abbas’s defamatory and venomous speech.”
Susan Rice, the United States envoy to the UN, is speaking now to explain her country’s “no” vote. She says only direct talks will produce the desired result of two states for two peoples.
“That remains our goal and we therefore measure any measure against that yardstick,” she says. “Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path for peace, that is why the Untied States voted against it.”
Keep refreshing the live-blog for more updates.
Here are some excerpts from the text of Mahmoud Abbas’s speech today. I will post it without my usual snarky commentary (perhaps just with a highlight or two). I believe you are able to detect the lies, slanders, omissions, distortions and fabrications in the speech. Binyamin Netanyahu’s comments that it was venomous, slanderous and hateful cover the entire gamut of the adjectives available to describe it:
Palestine comes today to the United Nations General Assembly at a time when it is still tending to its wounds and still burying its beloved martyrs of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression, still searching for remnants of life amid the ruins of homes destroyed by Israeli bombs on the Gaza Strip, wiping out entire families, their men, women and children murdered along with their dreams, their hopes, their future and their longing to live an ordinary life and to live in freedom and peace.
Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace and because its people, as proven in past days, are in desperate need of it.
The Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip has confirmed once again the urgent and pressing need to end the Israeli occupation and for our people to gain their freedom and independence. This aggression also confirms the Israeli Government’s adherence to the policy of occupation, brute force and war, which in turn obliges the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people and towards peace.
This is why we are here today.
The Palestinian people, who miraculously recovered from the ashes of Al-Nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence, which was rooted in the depths of their land and depths of history. In those dark days, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were torn from their homes and displaced within and outside of their homeland, thrown from their beautiful, embracing, prosperous country to refugee camps in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history. In those dark days, our people had looked to the United Nations as a beacon of hope and appealed for ending the injustice and for achieving justice and peace, the realization of our rights, and our people still believe in this and continue to wait.
When the Palestine National Council decided in 1988 to pursue the Palestinian peace initiative and adopted the Declaration of Independence, which was based on resolution 181 (II) (29 November 1947), adopted by your august body, it was in fact undertaking, under the leadership of the late President Yasser Arafat, a historic, difficult and courageous decision that defined the requirements for a historic reconciliation that would turn the page on war, aggression and occupation.
This was not an easy matter. Yet, we had the courage and sense of high responsibility to make the right decision to protect the higher national interests of our people and to confirm our adherence to international legitimacy, and it was a decision which in that same year was welcomed, supported and blessed by this high body that is meeting today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have heard and you too have heard specifically over the past months the incessant flood of Israeli threats in response to our peaceful, political and diplomatic endeavor for Palestine to acquire non-member observer State in the United Nations. And, you have surely witnessed how some of these threats have been carried out in a barbaric and horrific manner just days ago in the Gaza Strip.
We have not heard one word from any Israeli official expressing any sincere concern to save the peace process. On the contrary, our people have witnessed, and continue to witness, an unprecedented intensification of military assaults, the blockade, settlement activities and ethnic cleansing, particularly in Occupied East Jerusalem, and mass arrests, attacks by settlers and other practices by which this Israeli occupation is becoming synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement.
However, above all and after all, I affirm that our people will not relinquish their inalienable national rights, as defined by United Nations resolutions. And our people cling to the right to defend themselves against aggression and occupation and they will continue their popular, peaceful resistance and their epic steadfastness and will continue to build on their land. And, they will end the division and strengthen their national unity. We will accept no less than the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, to live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and a solution for the refugee issue on the basis of resolution 194 (III), as per the operative part of the Arab Peace Initiative.
Yet, we must repeat here once again our warning: the window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering. The innocent lives that have been taken by Israeli bombs – more than 168 martyrs, mostly children and women, including 12 members of one family, the Dalou family, in Gaza – are a painful reminder to the world that this racist, colonial occupation is making the two-State solution and the prospect for realizing peace a very difficult choice, if not impossible.
It is time for action and the moment to move forward.
The world is being asked today to undertake a significant step in the process of rectifying the unprecedented historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people since Al-Nakba of 1948.
In our endeavor today to acquire non-member State status for Palestine in the United Nations, we reaffirm that Palestine will always adhere to and respect the Charter and resolutions of the United Nations and international humanitarian law, uphold equality, guarantee civil liberties, uphold the rule of law, promote democracy and pluralism, and uphold and protect the rights of women.
As we promised our friends and our brothers and sisters, we will continue to consult with them upon the approval of your esteemed body our request to upgrade Palestine’s status. We will act responsibly and positively in our next steps, and we will to work to strengthen cooperation with the countries and peoples of the world for the sake of a just peace.
Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two States and became the birth certificate for Israel.
Sixty-five years later and on the same day, which your esteemed body has designated as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the General Assembly stands before a moral duty, which it must not hesitate to undertake, and stands before a historic duty, which cannot endure further delay, and before a practical duty to salvage the chances for peace, which is urgent and cannot be postponed.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine.
This is why in specific we are here today.
That didn’t sound like such a peace-loving speech did it? It’s certainly not the speech of a peace partner. Did you note the language Abbas used? The “Diaspora”, “recovering from the ashes”, “uprooting and erasing their presence”, “most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history” – beyond the ridiculous hyperbole, he is doing nothing more than stealing Jewish history. All thsoe terms happened to the Jews, not the Muslims, not even in 1948. Just like Muslims will destroy other cultures’ shrines and build on top of them, so the Palestinians would steal Jewish history, and deny the Jews’ connection to the land of Israel.
As for all the talk of reversing the Nakba – it wasn’t the UN or Israel who created the Nakba. It was the Palestinians and Arabs who did it all by themselves. If they had only accepted partition – yes, that partition of 65 years ago – they wouldn’t have found themselves in this position today.
Here’s another relevant tweet from Elder of Ziyon:
And now for Ron Prosor’s speech:
Today I stand before you tall and proud because I represent the world’s one and only Jewish state. A state built in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland, with its eternal capital Jerusalem as its beating heart.
We are a nation with deep roots in the past and bright hopes for the future. We are a nation that values idealism, but acts with pragmatism. Israel is a nation that never hesitates to defend itself, but will always extend its hand for peace.
Peace is a central value of Israeli society. The bible calls on us:
“seek peace and pursue it.”
Peace fills our art and poetry. It is taught in our schools. It has been the goal of the Israeli people and every Israeli leader since Israel was re-established 64 years ago.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence states, “We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help…”
This week was the 35th anniversary of President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem. In a speech just before that visit, President Sadat famously stood in the Egyptian parliament in Cairo and stated that he would go “to the ends of the earth” to make peace with Israel.
Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Menachem Begin, welcomed President Sadat to Israel, and paved the way for peace. This morning Prime Minister Netanyahu stood at the Menachem Begin Center at said this about the resolution that you are about to vote on: ”Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state, but for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all.
None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it. The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties and not through U.N. resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.
As for the rights of Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today, no decision by the U.N. can break the 4000 year old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
The People of Israel wait for a Palestinian leader that is willing to follow in the path of President Sadat. The world waits for President Abbas to speak the truth that peace can only be achieved through negotiations by recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. It waits for him to tell them that peace must also address Israel’s security needs and end the conflict once and for all.
For as long as President Abbas prefers symbolism over reality, as long as he prefers to travel to New York for UN resolutions, rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace will be out of reach.
Israel has always extended its hand for peace and will always extend its hand for peace. When we faced an Arab leader who wanted peace, we made peace. That was the case with Egypt. That was the case with Jordan.
Time and again, we have sought peace with the Palestinians. Time and again, we have been met by rejection of our offers, denial of our rights, and terrorism targeting our citizens.
President Abbas described today’s proceedings as “historic”. But the only thing historic about his speech is how much it ignored history.
The truth is that 65 years ago today, the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate into two states: a Jewish state, and an Arab state. Two states for two peoples.
Israel accepted this plan. The Palestinians and Arab nations around us rejected it and launched a war of annihilation to throw the “Jews into the sea”.
The truth is that from 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was ruled by Jordan, and Gaza was ruled by Egypt. The Arab states did not lift a finger to create a Palestinian state. Instead they sought Israel’s destruction, and were joined by newly formed Palestinian terrorist organizations.
The truth is that at Camp David in 2000, and again at Annapolis in 2008, Israeli leaders made far-reaching offers for peace. Those offers were met by rejection, evasion, and even terrorism.
The truth is that to advance peace, in 2005 Israel dismantled entire communities and uprooted thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip. And rather than use this opportunity to build a peaceful future, the Palestinians turned Gaza into an Iranian terror base, from which thousands of rockets were fired into Israeli cities. As we were reminded just last week, the area has been turned into a launching pad for rockets into Israeli cities, a haven for global terrorists, and an ammunition dump for Iranian weapons.
Time after time, the Palestinian leadership refused to accept responsibility. They refused to make the tough decisions for peace.
Israel remains committed to peace, but we will not establish another Iranian terror base in the heart of our country.
We need a peace that will ensure a secure future for Israel.
Three months ago, Israel’s Prime Minister stood in this very hall and extended his hand in peace to President Abbas. He reiterated that his goal was to create a solution of two-states for two-peoples—where a demiliteralized Palestinian state will recognize Israel as a Jewish State.
That’s right. Two states for two peoples.
In fact, President Abbas, I did not hear you use the phrase “two states for two peoples” this afternoon. In fact, I have never heard you say the phrase “two states for two peoples”. Because the Palestinian leadership has never recognized that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.
They have never been willing to accept what this very body recognized 65 years ago. Israel is the Jewish state.
In fact, today you asked the world to recognize a Palestinian state, but you still refuse to recognize the Jewish state.
Not only do you not recognize the Jewish state, you are also trying to erase Jewish history. This year, you even tried to erase the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. You said that Jews were trying to alter the historic character of Jerusalem. You said that we are trying to “Judaize Jerusalem”.
President Abbas, the truth is that Jerusalem had a Jewish character long before most cities in the world had any character! Three thousand years ago King David ruled from Jerusalem and Jews have lived in Jerusalem ever since.
President Abbas, instead of revising history, it is time that you started making history by making peace with Israel.
This resolution will not advance peace.
This resolution will not change the situation on the ground. It will not change the fact that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza. That is forty percent of the territory he claims to represent!
President Abbas, you can’t even visit nearly half the territory of the state you claim to represent.
That territory is controlled by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that rains missiles on Israel’s civilians. This is the same Hamas that fired more than 1,300 rockets into the heart of Israel’s major cities this month.
This resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority, which clearly fails to meet the criteria for statehood.
This resolution will not enable the Palestinians Authority to join international treaties, organizations, or conferences as a state.
This resolution cannot serve as an acceptable terms of reference for peace negotiations with Israel. Because this resolution says nothing about Israel’s security needs. It does not call on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish State. It does not demand an end of conflict and a termination of all claims.
Let me tell you what this resolution does do.
This resolution violates a fundamental binding commitment. This is a commitment that many of the states here today were themselves witness to. It was a commitment that all outstanding issues in the peace process would only be resolved in direct negotiations.
This resolution sends a message that the international community is willing to turn a blind eye to peace agreements. For the people of Israel, it raises a simple question: why continue to make painful sacrifices for peace, in exchange for pieces of paper that the other side will not honor?
It will make a negotiated peace settlement less likely, as Palestinians continue to harden their positions and place further obstacles and preconditions to negotiations and peace.
And unfortunately, it will raise expectations that cannot be met, which has always proven to be a recipe for conflict and instability.
There is only one route to Palestinian statehood. And that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions. As President Obama, said in 2010, “Peace cannot be imposed from the outside.”
The real message of this resolution for the people of Israel is that the international community will turn a blind eye to violations of these agreements by the Palestinians.
In submitting this resolution, the Palestinian leadership is once again making the wrong choice.
65 years ago the Palestinians could have chosen to live side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel. 65 years ago they could have chosen to accept the solution of two states for two peoples. They rejected it then, and they are rejecting it again today.
The international community should not encourage this rejection. It should not encourage the Palestinian leadership to drive forward recklessly with both feet pressing down on the gas, no hands on the wheel, and no eyes on the road.
Instead it should encourage the Palestinians to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions in order to achieve an historic peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.
Winston Churchill said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it … ignorance may deride it … malice may distort it … but there it is.”
The truth is that Israel wants peace, and the Palestinians are avoiding peace.
Those who are supporting the resolution today are not advancing peace. They are undermining peace.
The UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.
What a brilliant speech. What a pity no one was listening on the other side. Or even in the middle amongst the abstainers.