Spain and UN Palestinian bid

A Policy Without Principles

Every time Palestinians from Jerusalem are asked if they prefer to live under an independent Palestinian state or to continue being Arab citizens of Israel, they overwhelmingly choose the latter option.

2012-11-29 by Rafael Bardají

 No matter what, the Spanish Government seems to care very little for the creation of a Palestinian State. If it really cared, it would not support via its U.N. vote that the PLO, not the Palestinian Authority, gets U.N. observer status from "entity" to "non-member state." And I mean that Spain surely cares little about it because the country that helps Palestinians the most –the United States – rejects not only this Mahmoud Abbas blunder, but it remains convinced that it won’t have any “consequences.” First, the American Congress debates now the freeze of funds for the West Bank. The Canadian prime minister has said something similar and Israel, of course, has threatened to stop sending the taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Supporting with our vote that Palestinians suffer a dramatic drop of subsides and aid funds, which constitute their main source of revenue, is just pushing them over a cliff. Well, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Second, at this stage of the Catalonian saga, the Spanish government must already know that to declare your independence does not make you a true independent state. To an equal degree, it doesn’t matter if the U.N. General Assembly accepts Palestinians as a non-member observer state; such a conceptualization doesn’t go beyond being declarative and theoretical: today, Palestine is still divided into two antagonist factions, Fatah in West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. There where “the good guys” rule, meaning the favorite partners of Europeans and Westerners, the essential requirements of statehood are nowhere to be found. Furthermore, using the Catalonian example, if the government warned Artur Mas that his project for sovereignty is unconstitutional, that same government should explain why it’s turning a blind eye with Abbas and accepting his unilateral decision that actually constitutes breaking the rules of a peace proccess, as defined in the Oslo Accords. It’s very hard for me to imagine how we can move towards a “stable, peaceful and lasting framework” – to use the traditional and official bureaucratic language of the case – counting only on one side to fulfill the commitment. Without a negotiation, we’ll never get an agreement. Granting this status at the U.N. to those who repeatedly choose not to negotiate can strengthen the Palestinian resolve to not seek an agreement.

Third, this operation conceals the Palestinians’ deep dishonesty. Abbas knows that he is not going to have a state, regardless of words, acclaim, or votes at U.N. He’s actually seeking something else. For example, more political clout, a nice photo-op, and a vote of support so that he can face his own people and tell them that not only Hamas gets victories over Israel, he does, too. Even worse, what his final goal after that vote in New York is to be able to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would give him a platform to denounce as many Israelis as he pleases in order to make their lives harder. As a result, he could come off as an indefatigable hero against Zionist oppression. Ultimately what he seeks is to be able to retire without being accused by his own comrades of corruption, incompetence, and even worse things. He seeks that his state’s territory be as big as a U.N. chair because he refuses to agree on geographical borders with Israel since he doesn’t want to negotiate. While Arafat’s remains are being exhumed, Abbas feels he has been buried alive and either he wises up or his many detractors will drop him. In fact, he hasn’t been dropped yet, thanks to the Israelis – literally.

Fourth, this vote also conceals another story that depicts Spain in not so honest terms. Either said or not, pushing Palestinians into a dead end has nothing to do with the problems in Gaza and the West Bank. In fact, it’s due to a childish tactic in order to appear sympathetic to Palestinian grievances with Israel. In that way, we could get a few extra votes from Arab and Muslim countries in our quest for one of the non-permanent seats at the Security Council – a dear objective of our Foreign Ministry. For that same reason, the Spanish government continues funding the highly criticized initiative known as the “Alliance of Civilizations,” that ineffable concoction created by Spain’s former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero; or those openings of inter-religion dialog centers, which seeks to show how open we are to the Muslim Prophet’s ideas. Paradoxically, the most recent of those events took place in Vienna, the city that stopped the march of the Turks in defense of Christianity. The new center is named after King Abdullah. Naturally, perish the thought of opening a similar center in Riyadh for Christian King Pelagius of Asturias.

Finally, trying to be fairly reasonable here, we could have asked Abbas to postpone his U.N. petition since this is not the right time. Palestinian rockets were raining on Israeli territory less than a week ago. It’s true that all was happening from a terrorist Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip, but let’s not forget that the terrorist attack against a bus in Tel Aviv was originally planned in the West Bank, which is under the rule of the Palestinian Authority’s institutions. We should also remember that Abbas tried to do the same at the Security Council a year ago and that he suffered a resounding blow. If he’s now bent on doing it again is because he has the support of dozens of non-democratic members in the organization. Our vote in exchange for a seat is hardly commendable. Granting the Spanish citizenship to Sephardic applicants at this very moment, as a nominal compensation to the Jewish community, is a shabby and not such an encouraging, move.

That some want to justify the unjustifiable, saying that it’s our “traditional position” in Spanish diplomatic terms requires an explanation, to say the least. To what diplomacy do they refer?, to Franco’s traditional friendship with the Arab people, or to Zapatero’s wearing a keffiyeh?

Frankly, I think it’s time that Spain opens its eyes and leaves behind its actual traditional and short-sighted attitude. Spain must define its national interests with an open mind. In Northern Africa and the Middle East, from Morocco to Afghanistan, our strategic interests overlap our values, religious tolerance, economic freedom, gender equality, opportunity, and progress. Whatever we do, it should be based on those foundations. Thus, the question this government should make regarding this issue is not whether it paves our way to ephemeral stardom at the Security Council – not even whether the move makes more possible the creation of a Palestinian state. It should be whether it will or will not advance an environment of understanding, mutual acceptance, open minds and social openness. And, sadly, the answer is no. Even worse, the only country in the region that actually shares the values what we should proclaim for everyone is punished. Not surprisingly, every time Palestinians from Jerusalem are asked if they prefer to live under an independent Palestinian state or to continue being Arab citizens of Israel, they overwhelmingly choose the latter option. Let’s not be more Palestinian than the Palestinians.

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