A year after the Palestinians narrowly failed to get the Security Council to accept them as a Member State of the United Nations (they needed 9 votes, they got 8), they will get enough votes today at the UN General Assembly to be recognized as an Observer State. The Israeli government has failed to block this move and is now scrambling to control the damage by downplaying the significance of this recognition. “Nothing will change” declared Netanyahu this morning.
But the truth cannot be downplayed. Under the watch of the most right-wing government Israel has ever had, the Palestinians are achieving today what they could merely dream about a few years ago: world recognition of a Palestinian State in the pre-1967 borders. The fact that Palestine will be only an “observer” in the UN (like The Vatican) does not diminish the significance of this milestone on the path to full statehood. The road is now open for Palestine to seek membership in other bodies, such as the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and harass Israel as a fully accepted member of the international community.
Netanyahu’s policy of uncompromising intransigence has backfired on him. His lip service to the two-state solution (the infamous “Bar Ilan speech”) has been exposed to its fullest absurdity. When he is re-elected in a couple of months, his old-new government will need to navigate the waters of international diplomacy under new circumstances, which he promised will not come to light as long as he’s in power. He learnt the hard way that a policy of doing nothing does not leave a vacuum; it creates a void for other options to materialise.
To paraphrase the Talmudic Midrash: “the work of sages is done by others”.