The No-Votes At The UN Palestine Vote: Who Are They, And What Happens Now?

 @MayaErgas
on November 30 2012 1:47 PM
  • Palestine State Vote At UN
    The scoreboard at the moment of the vote on Thursday evening on the status of Palestine at the U.N. IBTimes/Maya Shwayder
  • Palestinian Flag Cake UN 194
    A pizza with toppings arranged to form the Palestinian flag. Reuters
  • Gaza rally, UN Palestine vote
    Palestinians in Gaza celebrate the General Assembly vote Thursday. Reuters
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The final tally on Thursday evening was 138 in favor of upgrading the Palestinian Territories' status; 41 abstentions, including Australia, Germany, and the U.K.; and nine 'no' votes.

The nine countries who voted against upgrading Palestine's status were Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama and the U.S..

The General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic tweeted this photo of the final tally.

From 2008 to 2010, the Czech Republic also showed a consistent record of voting with the U.S. and Israel on issues related to Israel. A representative from the Czech Republic Mission to the U.N. was not immediately available for comment, but in a statement released on Friday in the Prague Daily Monitor, the Czech Foreign Ministry said it "believes the recognition could delay the renewal of the Middle East peace process."

Panama's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on their website that Palestine "must first resolve its differences with … the State of Israel, which, like Palestine, has the right to a peaceful existence and a harmonious relation with Palestine and other States of the region."

The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and Nauru have a history of voting consistently with the U.S. in general. According to the latest available U.S. State Department records from 2009 and 2010  all four countries have voted with the U.S. over 80 percent of the time at the UN.

The Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia are also receiving $3.5 billion from the U.S. through the compact of free association through 2024. Palau is also in free association with the U.S., having received $18 million annually from the U.S. until 2009. Compact of free association means that sovereign nations are associated states of the U.S., and received guaranteed financial assistance.

The vote Thursday was met with much cheering and applause in the Assembly Hall at the U.N.. Gaza and Ramallah partied last night to celebrate a victory that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called a "birth certificate for Palestine." The question of course is, what happens now?

The answer is, probably, not much. The victory was largely symbolic, and Palestine is still not considered a full and sovereign state, as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice pointed out in her remarks after the vote. The Palestinian economy is still largely dependent on foreign aid, and according to Robert McMahon and Jonathan Masters at the Council on Foreign Relations, the deteriorating economic situation would require "Israel's easing of security restrictions that encumber the flow of commerce." That's not likely to happen now, since Israel is more than a little peeved at Abbas, not to mention Hamas.

On Friday, Israel approved the building of 3,000 new settler units in Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported on Friday, which Israeli government officials outright said were approved in response to the UN vote.

"Israel is considering several other actions in response to the unilateral Palestinian UN move," Israel's Channel 10 news said. 

Also on Friday, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced that Canada was "deeply disappointed but not surprised" by the way the vote went, and announced that Canada was recalling all of its diplomats in Israel, Ramallah, and at the UN in New York and Geneva to "review the full range of its bilateral relationship with the Palestinian Authority."

Baird said that Canada was "proud of the support" it has provided the Palestinians in the past, but that "yesterday’s unilateral action does nothing to further the Middle East peace process. It will not change the reality on the streets of the West Bank or Gaza. This unilateral step is an impediment to peace." 

The UN vote was mostly a victory for Abbas and his party, Fatah in the West Bank, who were looking rather side-lined and abandoned for all their moderate policies, while Hamas' aggressivity toward Israel in Gaza was garnering not only international attention, but Arab sympathy. Robert Danin, a Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote  that this would be a "twilight" victory for Abbas toward the end of his leadership of Palestine. 

"[Abbas] no doubt seeks some sort of legacy achievement," Danin wrote. "Thus, a symbolic victory in New York, albeit one that changes nothing on the ground in Palestine, is still better than no action at all.

"Such an accomplishment is likely to be Pyrrhic and short-lived," Danin continued. "The challenge then will be to prevent the action in New York from further damaging the prospects for a more coherent approach that could lead to a lasting peace between Israel and a genuine Palestinian state."

Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, wrote in an opinion piece for CNN that it might ultimately do more harm than good. 

"Congress might further restrict aid to the Palestinians at a time when the Palestinian Authority is in the red," Miller wrote. "Abbas will look feckless -- and Hamas even stronger."

However, supporters of the Palestinian effort point out that the new autonomy could reinvigorate the peace process, despite what U.S. and Israeli diplomats on the floor on the Assembly hall assert.

But Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings institute, wrote that the U.S. and Israel denying the legacy of upgraded status could destroy "the possibility of a two-state solution as well."

Al-Arabiya's Kouroush Ziabari pointed to the "diplomatic breakthrough" that was Palestine receiving 138 votes, with the "implicit support" of the 41 abstentions, which Ziabari said "will deliver a serious blow to Israel" and will force it back into peace talks.

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