“Instead of talking about history tomorrow we may actually get a chance to witness it live,” wrote Prof.
Daniel Monk yesterday in an email to students in his History of the Israel Palestine Conflict class.
Though the exact time had not yet been announced, it appeared that the United Nations General
Assembly’s vote on Palestinian statehood would likely take place during his class, which meets from
2:45 to 4 p.m. today.
“The UN General Assembly is going to hold a historic vote to recognize Palestine as an observer
state,” he wrote. “Now, this doesn’t mean complete international recognition of Palestine as a state, but
it IS a very significant development. We’re going to watch it live.”
Today, Monk, who studies critical geopolitics and the Israel/Palestine conflict, answered questions about the reason for the vote, the international community’s approaches to it, and the consequences for Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East Peace Process.
For more on the subject, see Monk’s essay Dangerous Neighborhood: Operation Defensive Pillar and its Interpreters.
Q: What does “observer status” mean for Palestine, and why is the U.S. opposed to it?
The U.S. has promised to veto a vote on Palestine in the Security Council, which is — in most
circumstances, the only body that can fully recognize Palestine as a full member of the UN. As a
result, the Palestinian Authority has turned to the General Assembly, which can recognize Palestine as
a non-voting state with “observer” status. And that is what will happen today.
While this is not full recognition, it assists the Palestinian cause in the world body, because it gives
Palestine full access to many of the UN’s instruments. For example, Palestine would be eligible to
bring a number of Israeli actions and policies before the International Criminal Court in the Hague. This
greatly concerns Israel’s leaders, and in particular, senior members of the IDF, Israel’s army. This is
one of the reasons that the U.S. and other Western states are opposed to the current Palestinian bid.
Q: How much impact is the outcome of the vote likely to have?
A: While some observers consider this a formal gesture and little more, I disagree. It signals an
incremental shift against the “Washington consensus” on the Middle East Peace Process, which
has failed to secure a final status agreement for Israelis and Palestinians. The U.S. will have to offer
serious initiatives — and not just vetoes — if it wishes to remain a relevant partner for peace in the
Also, while the vote will not have a direct or immediate effect on the lives of Palestinians and Israelis,
it may have an incremental impact. Israel is holding elections in January. Current polls show Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the lead, but his support may erode and his ability to form a strong
coalition may be affected by his foreign policy failures. On the Palestinian side, the UN’s actions may
do a great deal to bolster the Palestinian Authority and its Fatah faction, as compared to Hamas, which
has to little to show for its recent eight days of warfare with Israel.
Q: Is the international community essentially voting “against” Israel?
No, they are voting against stasis – They are voting against the lack of progress in the Middle East
In Sept. 2011, Monk talked about the implications of this likely scenario.