Israeli settlers on the Westbank have been cutting down olive groves belonging to Palestinians. They have ruined 2,600 trees which deprive local farmers of needed income and destroys generations’ old family farms. Their actions are a systematic assault on the livelihood of Palestinians living on the Westbank and an obvious attempt to drive them off their land thus opening the door for building more controversial settlements.
Second, the Freedom Wave II flotilla of relief ships has departed for the Gaza Strip likely escorted by the Turkish Navy. The last effort encountered violent opposition by the Israeli military resulting in the death of eight Turkish citizens. Canada and Ireland have joined this effort along with individuals representing nine other nations. What will Israel do now?
Third, the long simmering issue of Palestine’s statehood reared its head again. This past week Palestine gained membership in UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). France surprisingly voted for admission. “Palestine’s admission to UNESCO has given new credence to its bid for full UN membership” (PNN News).
In response, the United States ordered all funding for UNESCO cut off. That accounts for about 20% of the agency’s total budget. President Obama had no control over that decision. Laws passed under Presidents George Bush I and Bill Clinton deny any funding to any UN division that recognizes Palestine’s statehood. The question is…does that include the UN itself?
The U.S. contributes more to the UN than any other country: 22% of the regular UN budget and 27% of the peacekeeping budget. Americans donate $2.4 billion per year.
If the same laws apply to the United Nations in general, recognition of Palestine as a state would force the United States to cut all UN funding. This would destroy the organization’s ability to function, totally marginalize the United States as a world leader, or both. There is a lot at stake here besides admission of one small state.
Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, the Portuguese permanent representative to the UN holds the rotating council presidency for November. He stated that this week’s meeting of the Security Council Admissions Committee: “…will be the first formal meeting since the Palestinian bid was presented to the UN in September”. According to Palestine News: “…this week’s gathering will provide the first opportunity for permanent representatives to formally review the Palestinian bid.”
This committee will discuss the process for admission and determine if Palestine satisfies the UN Charter’s conditions. The Admission Committee will then report to the Security Council.
With France voting in favor of Palestine’s membership in UNESCO, one would expect France would support statehood in the Security Council. This further isolates the U.S. position. Pressure is mounting on America’s decision to veto statehood with each passing day. It is all coming to a head now.
Taken all together these three elements: destruction of olive groves by Israeli settlers, Freedom Flotilla II, and Palestine Statehood, have the potential for igniting the Middle East. Evidence of a gathering storm abounds.
by Ron Chapman