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Palestine and the UN, from Challenge to Opportunity

Palestine and the UN, from Challenge to Opportunity

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This policy brief outlines the current prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
This policy brief outlines the current prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Dec 10, 2012
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12/24/2012

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About this Series
Op-Med is an ongoing series o opinion pieces on topical issuesin Mediterranean politics roma transatlantic perspective. Teseries brings together European,North American, and southernMediterranean experts through theGerman Marshall Fund–IstitutoAari Internazionali strategicpartnership. Te series examines key questions surrounding the political,societal, and economic evolution o specic Mediterranean countriesas well as the broader regional andinternational dynamics at play in theMediterranean region as a whole.
Op-Med 
Palestine and the UN, from Challengeto Opportunity 
by Andrea Dessì and Daniela Huber 
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 200091 202 683 2650F 1 202 265 1662E ino@gmus.org
December 2012
Pushed to the sidelines by the Arabuprisings, the Israeli-Palestinianconlict has made it back to interna-tional headlines ollowing the recentescalation o violence in Gaza andIsrael, and the granting o Palestinianobserver state status at the UnitedNations (UN). New realities haveemerged that, i managed correctly,can create a more avorable setting orthe inevitable task o resuming peacenegotiations. hree conditions areindispensable in order to transormthese developments into an opportu-nity or diplomacy:
•
a reconciliation between thePalestinian actions o Hamas andFatah,
•
a bold new attempt by the UnitedStates and its partners aimedat strengthening accountability mechanisms or both sides whiledelineating clear incentives anddisincentives or resuming nego-tiations, and
•
an eort by the United Statesand Europe to coordinate theiractivities with regional actors toincrease Arab ownership o theprocess and help create a morelevel playing ield between Israelisand Palestinians.
New Realities
On the international ront, the Pales-tinian bid at the UN has underscoredthe overwhelming degree o inter-national support or a Palestinianstate based on the 1967 borders. Ninestates voted against (including theUnited States, Canada, and the CzechRepublic), 138 in avor (includingFrance, Italy, Spain, urkey, Brazil,Russia, India, China, and SouthArica), and 41 abstained (includingGermany, the United Kingdom, andAustralia). he most noteworthy development is the changing stanceo many European states, with 14 EUcountries voting in avor o the resolu-tion, 1 against, and 12 abstentions. I one compares European votes on thePalestinian application or member-ship in UNESCO last year, three EUcountries changed their position romabstention in 2011 to a “yes” vote in2012 (Italy, Portugal, and Denmark),three countries (Germany, the Neth-erlands, and Lithuania) switched rom“no” to abstention, and one country (Sweden) changed rom a “no” to “yes” vote.
Opinions on the Mediterranean
 
Opinions on the Mediterranean
Op-Med 
2
he act that key European countries changed their stance just days beore the vote sent shockwaves through Israel’soreign ministry. Several explanations have been oeredor this change. Firstly, European governments acknowl-edged the need to hand Mahmoud Abbas, president o thePalestinian Authority (PA), some semblance o a diplomatic victory given Hamass strengthened domestic and regionalposition in the wake o its armed conrontation with Israel.Furthermore, European states are trying to maintain goodrelations with the new governments installed ater the Arabuprisings and thereore many have chosen to take a moreorthcoming stance on the issue o Palestinian recogni-tion at the UN. Finally, the shit is relective o Europesincreased concern that the conditions or a two-state solu-tion are being undermined by Israeli actions on the groundin the Occupied Palestinian erritories (OPs) and o thegrowing realization that European policies are in eectserving to sustain the status quo.Frustrated by this, European governments are slowly considering a change o policy. Countries like Ireland,France, Finland, Denmark, and the U.K. have all proposedor supported concrete steps such as the labeling o prod-ucts originating in Israeli settlements, an EU-wide ban onimporting products made in Israeli settlements, or a denialo entrance into the EU to Israeli settlers involved in violentacts against Palestinians.
1
In a recent reaction to the Israeli
1 Andrew Rettman, “EU working on consumer labels for Israeli settlement products,”
EUobserver,
September 14, 2012,http://euobserver.com/foreign/117547; Andrew Rett-man, “EU countries consider sanctions on Israeli settlers,”
EUobserver 
announcement o plans to speed up settlement buildingand to develop the controversial E1 area that would eec-tively prevent the territorial continuity o any uture Pales-tinian state, France, the U.K., and other European states arereportedly coordinating moves aimed at pressuring Israelto reverse the decision. hese eorts are sending the signalthat Europe’s patience regarding Israel’s uncompromisingstance on settlement construction is beginning to wane.Moreover, at the regional level, while U.S. and Westerninluence in the Arab world has suered in the wake o theuprisings, regional states such as urkey, Qatar, and Egypthave been demonstrating a capacity to deuse regionaltensions and act as credible mediators. his is in stark contrast to the political bankruptcy o the Quartet (thenegotiating orum made up o the United States, the EU,Russia, and the UN), which has proved unable to bringabout any concrete results. Egypt, on the other hand, waspraised or its role in brokering the release o Israeli soldierGilad Shalit rom Gaza and in negotiating the Israel-Hamascease-ire to end the recent escalation in the Strip. urkey was also involved in mediating the cease-ire, and recentreports indicate that Israel and urkey have resumed directtalks to explore ways to overcome their diplomatic crisis,an eventuality that would salvage some o urkey’s diplo-matic leverage in the region.
2
his new activism is gener-ally welcomed by Western powers — especially given thatthe United States has been pushing or a greater degree o Arab/urkish “ownership” in regional aairs. he act thatthese countries enjoy good relations with both Hamas andWashington urther highlights the beneits o this increasedactivism, given that these countries could serve as impor-tant counterweights to Iran’s more subversive inluence overthe Islamist Palestinian resistance movement in Gaza andthereore help moderate Hamas’s positions toward Fatah,Israel, and the peace process.his leads us to the domestic level. he recent Gaza crisisappears to have set the stage or renewed reconciliationeorts between Hamas and Fatah, a necessary pre-condi-tion or any diplomatic push on the Israeli-Palestinianconlict. Since its recent conrontation with Israel, Hamasarguably eels it has less to lose given that it would approachsuch an agreement rom a position o strength. At the same
2 Barak, Ravid, “Israel and Turkey resume talks to end diplomatic crisis,”
Ha’aretz 
European states are trying tomaintain good relations with thenew governments installed afterthe Arab uprisings and thereforemany have chosen to take a moreforthcoming stance on the issue of Palestinian recognition at the UN.
 
Opinions on the Mediterranean
Op-Med 
3
as agreeing on possible measures that could be employedagainst each o the sides in the event that these proveunwilling to abide by these guidelines. hese measuresshould go urther than the usual issuing o strongly wordeddeclarations and include tangible actions that could serve tochange the incentive calculus o both sides. Western statesshould also discuss assuming a more lexible approachtoward Hamas, not least as a means to provide urtherincentives or Hamas to moderate its positions.his should be done in coordination with Egypt, urkey,and Qatar as well as other regional actors, given that Israel’sArab neighbors, and the Palestinians, will ultimately bethose tasked with upholding any resolution to the conlictwhile simultaneously providing Israel with security guar-antees. A “division o labor” between the EU and UnitedStates on one hand and Egypt, urkey, and Qatar on theother could serve to create a more avorable setting or thistask and the ive actors should set up an inormal contactgroup to coordinate their actions in this ield.
4
he trans-atlantic partners could concentrate on reassuring Israelisecurity concerns while working to convince Israel toassume a more orthcoming approach on such issues as
4 Nathalie Tocci, “The EU, the Middle East Quartet, and (In)effective Multilateralism,”
Mercury E-paper 
time, Hamas has a clear interest in breaking its internationalisolation by aligning its stance with the positions o suchstates as urkey, Egypt, and Qatar instead o Iran. Fatah,on the other hand, sees reconciliation as a means to escapeits regional marginalization and shore up its dwindlingdomestic support. It is important to note that, contrary towhat happened last year, Hamas has signaled its hesitantsupport or Abbass UN bid and that in the wake o the Gazacease-ire, both Hamas and Fatah have taken concrete stepsto advance reconciliation.
3
While numerous agreementshave been signed and never implemented since the 2007Hamas-Fatah civil war in Gaza, new regional and interna-tional developments seem to have modiied the incentive-calculus o both actions, creating a rare appetite or unity.Israel, on its part, eels increasingly isolated ollowingthe UN vote. Furthermore, the recent conrontation withHamas has shown that Israel cannot hope to resolve thistroubled relationship solely through military means. Any government that will emerge rom the upcoming January 2013 elections in Israel will have to come to terms withthese regional and international trends. Moreover, at thedomestic level, voices in Israel’s political establishmentare increasingly warning that i the two-state solution isdiscarded, Israel will inevitably ace other more insidiouschallenges in the uture and that at some point some ormo accommodation will have to be ound with Hamas.
The Way Forward
How can these new realities be transormed into an oppor-tunity or diplomacy? On the one hand, i the internationalcommunity remains passive, the status quo will at bestcontinue, or at worst, the two-state solution will collapsealtogether, bringing down the Palestinian Authority andcreating a dangerous security and political vacuum in theWest Bank. On the other hand, i Europe and the UnitedStates capitalize on these developments, they can helpdeuse tensions and create a more avorable setting or theeventual resumption o negotiations. As a irst step, the EUand the United States should seriously engage in consulta-tions in order to hash out a common position on a set o goals and ground rules to guide the negotiations as well
3 Dalia Hatuqa, “Gaza conict brings Fatah and Hamas closer,”
 Al-Jazeera
While numerous agreementshave been signed and neverimplemented since the 2007
Hamas-Fatah civil war in Gaza,
new regional and internationaldevelopments seem to have
modifed the incentive-calculus
of both factions, creating a rareappetite for unity.

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