Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Inconsistency in the Argument against the U.N. Upgrade of Palestine's Status
HIRAYAMA Kentaro  / Journalist

December 21, 2012
On November 29, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to upgrade the status of Palestine from a non-member observer "Organization" to a non-member observer "State" with the approval of 138 states including Japan. In his speech preceding the vote, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, appealed that this was another step forward in the direction of creating an independent state of Palestine that could coexist with Israel.

Last fall, President Abbas applied to the Security Council seeking full U.N. membership for Palestine, but the effort ended without success as the United States exercised its right to veto any vote. This time around, the goal was lowered to a vote in the General Assembly, where the United States had no vetoing power. Nine countries including Israel and the United States opposed the resolution, while 41 countries including the Balkan states abstained. Immediately after the resolution was passed, the Palestinian Authority changed its name to "Palestine."

The opposition from Israel and the United States is based on the argument that Palestinian independence should ultimately come about only as a result of direct negotiations with Israel, and that it was irrelevant to seek a U.N. resolution as its basis. The territorial delineation in the latest proposal by President Abbas was based on borders that preceded Israeli occupation. Israel is stingy with territorial concessions, and it would be safe to say the United States paid due consideration to Israel's position.

However, I would like to pose a question on their argument. It was 65 years ago on November 29,1947 - the same date of the latest U.N. resolution – that the same General Assembly adopted a resolution to divide the then mandated British territory of Palestine into an Arab state and an Israeli state. The Arab camp, which had been opposed to the division itself, refused to accept this resolution, while the Israeli side accepted. Six months later in May 1948, the founding of the state of Israel was declared, citing this resolution as its primary basis in international law. Not only was there any agreement with the local Arab population (the Palestinians) or neighboring Arab nations, there were no negotiations whatsoever, and subsequent changes in Israel's territories and borders have been the result of repeated warfare.

In view of the flow of past events, the objection posed by Israel – and the United States – against the latest U.N. resolution seems to be legally inconsistent. While it is only natural that Israel has strong concerns about its own national security, it is a well-known fact that the Palestinian side has proposed holding future negotiations with Israel on this issue and on the issue of Palestine's territorial borders.

Following the U.N. resolution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a retaliatory gesture by constructing 3,000 Jewish settlements (housing complex) within the so-called E1 area neighboring East Jerusalem, which is located on the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River. This has drawn fire from Palestinians and strong criticism from the international community as a move intended to completely cut off East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians consider their capital, from the West Bank, creating a north-south divide in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on both Israel and Palestine to resume peace talks. Yet, if the United States hopes to arrest the decline in its diplomatic influence in the Middle East, it would need to step up its intervention. Now in its second term, the Obama administration will soon have to demonstrate its stance.

The latest resolution by the General Assembly split the vote among countries in the European Union, and I think Japan merits high praise for casting its vote of approval along with countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Norway, instead of abstaining.

Kentaro Hirayama is former Executive Commentator of the NHK.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

平山 健太郎 / ジャーナリスト

2012年 12月 21日




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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Inconsistency in the Argument against the U.N. Upgrade of Palestine's Status