Israel-Palestine update

While we were offline, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to non-member state, with 138 members voting in favor. The US voted against, based on the principle that Palestinian statehood is a subject for direct negotiations, and the UK abstained.

I agree with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert: Israel should not have opposed a symbolic step toward statehood that strengthens the wing of the Palestinian movement which accepts a two-state solution viz-a-viz the wing which insists on Israel’s destruction.

(I say this while fully recognizing that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has so far failed to reassure the Israeli public that he is serious about a peaceful and permanent agreement– most notably by refusing to recognize the Jewish nature of Israel.)

Unfortunately the Israeli government responded to the UN’s vote with a calculated act of spite– an announcement that 3,000 new settler homes will be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This doesn’t so much hurt the Palestinian Authority (which I suppose is always pleased to have evidence of Israeli unreasonableness) as it does Israel in its relations with the UK, France, Germany and especially the US– all of which oppose settlement expansion. After the Obama administration supported Israel during the Pillar of Defense operation in Gaza, and stood with Israel against the overwhelming majority at the UN, it seems like a kick in the teeth.

National Public Radio’s Guy Raz (who has been a Harry’s Place reader) recently interviewed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Ehud Olmert and Israel’s US ambassador Michael Oren. You can listen here.

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