[Published 19 April 2012]
UNESCO’S recognition that Palestine is a State has now been totally refuted by the Quartet - America, the Russian Federation, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN).
The Quartet - in its latest statement - has now endorsed the view of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (OTP) just a few days earlier - that Palestine is not a State.
“The Quartet reaffirmed its commitment, as expressed in its 23 September 2011 statement, to examine possible mechanisms it can actively support going forward, individually and together, to advance peace efforts and strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s ability to meet the full range of civil and security needs of the Palestinian people both now and in a future state.”
The Quartet’s use of the words - “both now and in a future state” - was clear and unambiguous .
If the Quartet and the OTP are correct - then Palestine’s admission to UNESCO as a State is indeed unlawful - since only States can be members of UNESCO under Article II paragraph 2 of UNESCO’S Constitution.
Yet the Russian Federation and many other member states of the UN and the EU - 107 to be precise - voted to recognize Palestine’s claim to be a State - thereby qualifying it to be granted admission to UNESCO.
How then can their representatives in the Quartet be now saying Palestine is not a State?
The remaining 87 UNESCO member states - including America and Israel - did not vote for Palestine’s admission. Yet none of these States has done anything in the last six months to protest the illegality of Palestine’s admission to UNESCO - although several courses of action were open to them.
Firstly - they could have attempted to have the decision reviewed by lobbying UNESCO to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the constitutional propriety of its decision to recognize Palestine as a State - under Article XIV Paragraph 2 of UNESCO’s Constitution which states:
“Any question or dispute concerning the interpretation of this Constitution shall be referred for determination to the International Court of Justice or to an arbitral tribunal, as the General Conference may determine under its Rules of Procedure.’
Secondly - they could have suspended their membership or the payment of their membership dues or refused to attend meetings when Palestine was represented by its accredited spokespersons.
America and Israel suspended their dues - not to protest UNESCO’S recognition of Palestine as a State - but to protest that this recognition was achieved unilaterally outside the negotiations prescribed by the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap.
So having by their conduct over the last six months done nothing to voice their opposition to UNESCO recognizing that Palestine is a State - how can their Quartet representatives now be claiming to do just that by claiming there is no existing State of Palestine?
The Quartet’s statement sounds an even more discordant tone when it asserts:
“The Quartet encouraged the parties, in this context, to cooperate to facilitate the social and economic development of Area C, which is of critical importance for the viability of a future Palestinian state as well as for its Palestinian inhabitants to be enabled to lead a normal life. The Quartet asked Quartet Representative Blair to continue his intensive work with the parties toward this end."
Again the words - "a future Palestinian State” - are carefully chosen - a clear negation of the UNESCO vote recognizing Palestine is a State.
But even stranger - "Area "C" is a specific creation of the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap negotiating processes - instituted in 1993 and 2002 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization through its then newly constituted negotiating entity - the Palestinian Authority.
“Area C ” comprises 61% in area of the West Bank and is home to only 4% of the Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank. It also happens to be the location where pre-existing Jewish settlements were destroyed in the 1948 Arab-Israel War - and were subsequently re-established after the 1967 War.
“Area C ” also contains most of the new Jewish settlements built since 1967 - where close settlement by Jews was to be encouraged under article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
Israel currently holds full security and administrative control in “Area C”. Sovereignty has remained unallocated between Jews and Arabs since Great Britain handed back its Mandate to the United Nations in 1948.
In going behind Oslo and the Roadmap to unilaterally achieve statehood at UNESCO - Palestine has cut itself completely adrift from Oslo and the Roadmap.
It surely is wishful thinking for the Quartet to have any expectations that further negotiations on the future of “Area C” can be conducted within the framework of Oslo and the Roadmap - once the two-state solution contemplated by Oslo and the Road Map had been achieved at UNESCO.
If there are to be any negotiations over Area C - where Palestine does not have and never has had effective control - a new Roadmap - agreed to by Israel and the Palestinian Authority - will first be needed to replace both Oslo and the Bush Roadmap.
That no doubt is what the Quartet wants to avoid - and provides a good reason for the Quartet to continually claim that there is no state of Palestine existing at the present time.
Perhaps the Quartet is preparing us to get ready to listen to a new composition - the Obama Roadmap,
For that to happen however - the Quartet must encourage UNESCO to high tail it to the International Court - to clarify whether its decision to recognize Palestine as a State is lawful or not.
The current disharmony caused by UNESCO and the Quartet playing from different scores needs to be resolved without delay.
Is Palestine now a state - or it is not?
The UNESCO decision has not only created a growing global humanitarian crisis caused by the loss of 22% of its budget in suspended American dues.
That decision has now also become crucial in determining whether:
1. Oslo and the Bush Roadmap have any further relevance at all and
2. The Quartet disappears ignominiously off the international stage into permanent retirement as the most powerful diplomatic negotiating team ever assembled in history that failed to achieve anything after eight years of trying.
Until the International Court gives its advisory opinion - the Quartet is going to look decidedly foolish claiming there is no such State yet in existence - when UNESCO says there is.
This head-on collision is certain to claim a lot of casualties.