The new status of a non-member observer state eyed by the Palestinian Authority falls short of full UN membership and the Palestine Liberation Organization is claiming that more than 130 countries now grant the Palestinians the rank of a sovereign state.
The new title would allow Palestine access to the International Criminal Court, something that Israel is bitterly opposed to, fearing a possible investigation into war crimes committed by the Jewish state. Additionally, it is concerned that the Palestinian Authority may pursue this avenue to reclaim occupied territories.
The Israelis have warned they might take significant deductions out of monthly transfers of duties that Israel collects on the Palestinians' behalf.
“This step is meaningless as the Palestinians will not feel any difference tomorrow; they will not have the Palestinian state. Second, it is a violation of agreements that Israel is signed to. A new Palestinian state can be established only through direct negotiations,” Alex Selsky, a press secretary for the Israeli Prime Minister, told RT branding the Palestinian bid “a one-sided declaration.”
The US, which also opposes the move, warned the authority the action could lead to a reduction of US economic support for Palestinians.
As the crucial vote in the UN General Assembly approaches, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy tells RT that the Palestinian bid for status upgrade signals despair among the Palestinian leadership as Israel sabotages diplomacy to overcome the crisis in the region.
RT: It is widely expected the Palestinian bid will receive overwhelming support at the UN. What is the feeling in Israel regarding this prospect?
Gideon Levy: The Israeli government is opposing this step. First they tried to threaten the Palestinian Authority. Now they are trying to downgrade the whole thing and talk as if it is quite a marginal development, which it is not, by the way.
People are quite indifferent, because most of the Israelis see that the occupied territories will look tomorrow exactly as they look today.
RT: Why exactly are Israel and the US expressing such harsh opposition?
GL: Basically because Israel does not want to end the occupation and the US is following Israel blindly.
RT: What better option do the US and Israel have given the circumstances? Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' failure at the UN would lead to him losing support and Hamas gaining more power.
GL: Absolutely. It is more than this. If Israel says no to diplomacy – it says yes to terror.
The Palestinians will continue to fight for their freedom. They have two basic ways to do so: one through diplomacy and negotiations and the other one through terror. Israel says no to both.
RT: Israel and the US have been saying the Palestinian bid is harming prospects for peace in the region, how is that so?
GL: This is so ridiculous. They claim that this is one-sided, the step the Palestinians are now taking in the UN. But the settlements are much more one-sided and irreversible than this step.
Abbas did it [out of] desperation from lack of negotiations. He was ready to negotiate in certain terms, very logical ones, like freezing the settlements. Israel says no to freezing the settlements. So what way is still open to him except going to the international community and ask them for recognition?
Israel should have supported this and the US for sure should have.
RT: If the Palestinian Administration gets the non-member observer state status can we expect them to take issues to the International Criminal Court? Such as alleged war crimes and Israel's illegal settlements?
GL: I am not sure they will go so far at this stage, but ways are open for them to do so. I am not sure they will go so far because they still want to leave some channels open both with Israel and with the US. So they will keep it as an option, but they will not do it tomorrow.
RT: To sum up, where do you see Israel-Palestinian relations standing if the Palestinian bid is voted up?
GL: Unfortunately, it is just another step in a very long way to put an end to the Israeli occupation. I don’t think it has too much meaning, because finally in the ground the Israeli army and the settlers are still in the West Bank and will continue to be there, maybe for a long time. And as long as this reality on the ground does not change, no resolution in the UN will really make a historical difference.