Palestinian Statehood and the September UN Gambit: A Recipe for Conflict or Consensus?

September 19th 2011
Palestinian Statehood and the September UN Gambit: A Recipe for Conflict or Consensus?

The unilateral course will not produce good results; on the contrary, it will push away any prospect of any final peace agreement.

Meeting in the House of Commons

A meeting on ‘Palestinian Statehood and the September UN Gambit: A Recipe for Conflict or Consensus?’ was held last September 5th at the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, in the House of Commons in London. At the event, opening the current academic year, FOII’s Chairman José María Aznar spoke on the ‘Implications of the Unilateral Declaration of a Palestinian State’, stressing his conviction that although the discussions at the UN on the recognition of a Palestinian state would have some important consequences, they would not be as dramatic as some think (the full speech is available on our website at
He remarked that a Palestinian state had already been declared by Arafat in 1988 and that almost 100 nations at the UN had recognised that as a fact. However, he stressed that Palestine has only existed since then as a virtual reality and that the General Assembly’s forthcoming session would therefore be unlikely to change things very much.
Nevertheless, he explained that the current situation is not the same as it was in the 1980s: first, there is now a Palestinian Authority and, although the level of governance possible with Hamas ruling in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank is arguable, it seems undeniable that some institution-building has been achieved; and secondly, and no less importantly, Israel is currently being subjected to an unprecedented campaign of denigration and its very right to exist is under continuous attack. The Palestinians’ attempt to force the UN to recognise their state –of which there is not much chance– will only serve to further delegitimise the State of Israel, placing it increasingly on the defensive, backed by the traditional support of America.
He added that FoII is convinced that unilateralism will lead to no good and will, in fact, make the prospect of any final negotiated peace agreement even more remote: there is no alternative to bilateral negotiations.
This is precisely the topic covered by the two Working Papers produced by FOII and presented by Aznar at the event in the House of Commons.
The first, written on occasion of the visit to Israel by an FOII delegation at the end of July, looks at the ‘The Palestinian Unilateralist Course and the Responsibility of the International Community’ and warns that although for the last four decades the International Community has sought to promote a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and of its Israeli-Palestinian component in particular, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which has Observer Status at the UN, aims to gain recognition for a Palestinian State as a fully-fledged member in September and that this would involve establishing ‘the new state’s borders through a UN resolution, instead of delineating them through negotiations with Israel’ (read more:

Consequently, a unilateral Palestinian initiative to establish a state outside the 1993 Oslo Agreements will undermine the entire Arab-Israeli Peace Process, which is based on a negotiated outcome. ‘Such a step could lead to escalating violence, a further intensification of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and if supported by the European Union it could also undercut the latter’s diplomatic standing as an honest broker in any peace process in the future’.
The second Working Paper, which is the result of a joint project between FoII and the Henry Jackson Society and was also presented at the meeting in London, is titled ‘No Path to Peace: the Potential Consequences of Palestinian Unilateral Actions at the United Nations General Assembly’ and considers that ‘though it is far from clear what exact form President Abbas’s course of action at the UN General Assembly will be, the contours of an expected Palestinian unilateral initiative have come into focus as the diplomacy has unfolded’ .(Read the Working Paper at:
It adds that ‘given the grave wider implications for the status of diplomacy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that the Palestinian unilateral gambit carries, even such a more limited General Assembly resolution could have far reaching consequences in this case. With UN member state’s position of support or opposition to the Palestinian unilateral initiative clear, ostensibly the major determining factor of success for the gambit will come from the votes cast by those European Union and associated countries that can confer or deny a sense of diplomatic legitimacy to the outcome of a relevant UN General Assembly vote’.
And concludes that ‘the latest round of diplomacy appears to be edging towards an outcome that will see the Palestinian leadership retreat from seeking to become a full member state and instead aim to garner European support for a resolution elevating Palestine from having Observer Status at the UN to becoming a Non-Member State (similar in Status to the Holy See)’.
The UN General Assembly’s new 66th session is set to open on September 20th.


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