In a historic vote, on Thursday 29th of November 2012, Palestine won its bid at the UN to upgrade its status from just an 'entity' to a 'non-member state'! This was exactly 65 years after the erstwhile British Mandate of Palestine was divided into a Jewish state and an Arab state vide UN resolution 181. After Thursday's vote, Palestine became the 194th 'state' to have, at least, this status. While most of the nations of the world voted in favour of the bid, The Vatican (also a non-Member Observer state) hailed the UN resolution. While as countries like China, South Africa and Pakistan co-sponsoring the draft resolution, the response of the US-Israel axis has been, expectedly, unrealistic. Though, in essence, this upgradation won't bring about any drastic changes but it is a second moral & symbolic victory in a row for the Palestinian people within ten days. Apart from the change in seating arrangement of the Palestinian UN representative, who will now sit beside the Pakistani representative (as per alphabetical order) in the Permanent members benches, the changes which this upgradation might bring are to be debated.
`Not much will change on the ground', as the Israeli government was quick to react. The Palestinian diaspora will still require permits from Israel to visit their homeland. The collection of revenue and taxes, as presently done by the Israeli government, will still be done by the Israeli government only. The capital of the Palestine, Jerusalem, will continue to be held by Israel. However, it will give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the much needed political life saver, particularly after the rival Hamas gained immense popularity (and legitimacy) in the International circles during the Israeli attack last week. Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organization by both Israel and the US, gained political leverage over Abbas's Fatah due to the visit of high profile Arab leaders like The Emir of Qatar, Egyptian PM as well as the Turkish FM and had given Abbas a reason to worry. Abbas can now triumphantly come back to Palestine with something to cheer about.
Apart from this, the only appreciable change which this up gradation has brought is that it has enabled Palestine to seek membership of the different UN bodies and possibly strengthen its bid for the membership as a 'state' in the International Criminal Court (ICCt), which is not a UN body. However, it is highly unlikely that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will go to the ICCt to demand investigations into war crimes and assassinations orchestrated by successive Israeli governments. The European Union is the major contributor of international aid to Palestine and most of the European countries have warned the PA against dragging Israel to the ICCt, lest they stop the aid. Besides, the US has also warned to terminate all assistance to the PA should they go to the ICCt. The US has also legislated that it would close the Palestinian office in Washington unless Palestine resumes 'meaningful dialogue' with Israel, which stands stalled since 2005!
Israel is going to polls in January 2013 and this issue is definitely going to affect the results in a big way. This upgradation seems to undo whatever political mileage Benjamin Netanyahu had gained after bombarding Gaza last week. It was widely expected that the attack on Gaza would tilt the political balance largely in his favour but now the UN vote may affect his prospects in the coming elections. This was evident from his reaction to the UN decision which he termed as 'not conforming to peace'. The rival Israeli politicians have already begun targeting Netanyahu for his supposedly weak policies. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who marked a re-entry into Politics with the launch of her own political party termed the Palestinian bid at the UN as a 'strategic terrorist attack' despite her being a vocal supporter of the two state solution to the Palestine issue.
Notwithstanding all these factors, this up gradation can be welcomed as a small yet significant step forward towards the settling of the Palestinian issue. After all, Switzerland also existed as a non-Member Observer State at the UN, for 50 years, till 2002!
(The writer is an alumnus of National Institute of Technology Srinagar. Feedback at http://kashmired.blogspot.in )