x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Palestinians' UN bid confirms Israel's isolation

A place at the table of nations in the General Assembly is important, but building a nation on Palestinian land is the true goal.

Today in New York, the United Nations General Assembly is scheduled to vote on upgrading the status of Palestine at the international body. The numbers look good and short of an unexpected upset, Palestinians will probably be granted "observer" status at the world body, similar to the Vatican.

That would be a resounding victory for a people whose land has been divided, attacked and occupied for decades. It would represent a long-overdue step for a people who remain without a nation of their own. And it would be a clear signal by the international community of its disapproval of one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the 20th century, the dispossession of the Palestinian people. The move would also give Palestinians a route to present grievances against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

Yet how much this will actually solve the very real problems of Palestinians remains to be seen. It will certainly be a huge diplomatic and moral victory. It could also provide a rallying point for the fractious politicians of Hamas and Fatah. But it is also likely to incur financial punishment from Israel, not to mention the US, where congressional anger will again lead to vocal calls for a slash in aid. Despite the much touted "withdrawal" from Gaza, Israel remains in control of all the lands of Palestine.

Israel is going into this on a run of political defeats. President Benjamin Netanyahu signalled too openly his preference for Mitt Romney, only to see Barack Obama returned to the White House. He was then forced to accept a ceasefire in Gaza, even after an attack on a bus in the capital Tel Aviv.

And yet, despite sweeping global support for the Palestinian position - France on Tuesday confirmed it would vote in favour of the bid - Israel remains intent on isolating itself further. As one senior Israeli official told journalists: "True, we're going to see fireworks in Ramallah but the settlements will remain exactly where they are and the IDF will continue to operate in the same areas."

Tomorrow is a chance for nations of the world to show how wrong Israel is in defending the status quo. A Palestinian state is coming; the weight of world opinion is now too great and the understanding of the historic crimes committed against the Palestinian people too real to be denied. Most serious leaders have accepted the idea of a two state solution - even Mr Netanyahu has done so, through gritted teeth.

But the statehood bid is not the end of the road, merely another milestone. The true goal is not accepting a place at the table of nations in the General Assembly, but building a nation on Palestinian land.