Jamaica did the right thing by the Palestinians

Sunday, December 02, 2012

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Palestinians have argued for years that they should be recognised as a sovereign state because the right to self-determination is an inalienable right enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Some have disputed this claim. Whatever the merits of both sides, the United Nations membership has taken a decision which acknowledges that the Palestinians are a sovereign state.

Thursday, November 29, 2012 was a day of joy and vindication for the Palestinians, a moment to savour amid the devastation and misery which is their reality. The United Nations voted 138 in favour, nine against (including Canada and Panama) with 41 abstentions (including Britain and Germany) to upgrade the status of Palestinians from "observer entity" to "non-member observer state". Israel and the United States have consistently opposed such a decision and voted against it on Thursday.

This is an implicit recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state. It is a major political break-through, a moral victory and a psychological boost which the Palestinians have fought for over many years. The UN decision could open the possibility of membership in United Nations agencies and the International Criminal Court.

De facto recognition as a state might inject some movement into the talks on the "two-state" solution to the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Israel occupies Jerusalem, a holy site for Christians, Jews and Muslims and most of the West Bank. This has been so since the Six-Day War of 1967. Previously, the West Bank was held by Jordan and the Gaza Strip was controlled by Egypt.

It was ironic that Thursday was the 65th anniversary of the vote which divided the British-controlled Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arabic. This is the vote which gave birth to Israel.

President Mahmud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority regards the vote as the birth certificate of the state of Palestine. The next step is to determine what exactly are the implications which flow from the UN decision. The strong statements which preceded and followed the vote did not create an atmosphere in which there can be the type of constructive dialogue and legal interpretation that is now necessary.

We continue to support all initiatives which can lead to the peaceful coexistence of the Palestinians and the Israelis. We hope that this new development is a positive one which can add momentum to the resolution of this bitter dispute.

The Jamaican Government and Foreign Minister A J Nicholson are to be commended for doing the right thing by the Palestinians in voting in favour of the resolution.

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