Last Friday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a “non-member observer state,” upgrading its former status as a “non-member observer entity.” The vote was 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions. The United States voted against. Church bells across the West Bank rang out in celebration, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a statement congratulating the Palestinians and noting that “this step marks a significant shift to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and is an incentive for peace.”
The response from the Vatican was praise for the move and a call for the UN to go even further. In its press release, the Holy See said it “welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non- member Observer State of the United Nations,” and quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks at Ben Gurion Airport in 2009:
No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream.
On the other side of the moral and mental universe, the Israeli government responded this morning by announcing that 3,000 additional residences will be constructed on Palestinian land in key settlements, including an area designated as E-1, which straddles the land connecting East Jerusalem and the remainder of the West Bank. If settlements are expanded in E-1 it will be a disaster for peace according to many observers, including Daniel Seidemann, who heads up a Jewish group called Ir Amin, which works to ensure cooperation and peaceful coexistence among Israelis and Palestinians. Seidemann said that the Israeli announcement is a “doomsday scenario,” that would mean “the death of the two-state solution.” Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, noted that in punishing the Palestinians, the Netanyahu government was only harming Israel. As she put it, “the decision to build thousands of housing units as punishment to the Palestinians only punishes Israel … (and) only isolates Israel further.’’
So, here we have Israel once again thumbing its nose at the international community, including the Vatican and even the United States, which has called today’s move “counterproductive” and said it makes it more difficult “to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution.” The United Nations has passed 15 resolutions describing the settlements as a barrier to a permanent peace, and five successive American presidents have asked that settlement activity cease, yet this is precisely the cudgel Israel chooses to wield in its fit of pique over the UN vote last week. It is becoming impossible for anyone not frozen in ideological amber to avoid the conclusion that the Israeli government doesn’t really want an equitable peace at all, that what it hopes to achieve is more like a Pax Israelica anchored by a permanent de facto annexation of the West Bank. One state, Israel, ringed by pacified satellite territories and their impoverished, disenfranchised populations. That may be the plan, but demography, time and justice are not on Israel’s side. And those who defend such an arrangement, though they may not realize it, are in the same moral position as a physician who assists in a suicide. Friendly, but not friends.
NOTE: This topic brings out the worst in everyone, unfortunately. So once again I will be moderating comments very closely. No blanket statements about Jews, Arabs or Muslims will be tolerated. Rhetoric that merely indicts or insults without providing at least minimal argumentation and/or evidence won’t see the light of day.