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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: December 10, 2012 NO. 50 DECEMBER 13, 2012
New Opportunity or New Trouble?
Palestine's UN status upgrade brings uncertainty
By Yu Lintao

VICTORY: Palestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 29, after the UN General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as an observer state (XINHUA/AFP)

Although Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas regained great popularity in the Palestinian territories after the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to grant an upgrade of Palestine's status from an "entity" to a "non-member state," the dream of the Palestinians to found a country of their own with independent sovereignty as well as territorial integrity appears to be even more distant.

Some observers said the significance of Palestine's status upgrade is more symbolic than substantive. As Israel and the United States were completely against Palestine's becoming a UN non-member observer, the status upgrade would bring the Palestinians more practical difficulties and present greater barricades to creating an independent state.

Symbols over substance

On November 29, the 67th UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to grant Palestine the status of a UN observer state. UN member states voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to support a draft resolution co-sponsored by about 70 countries. The move was an implicit recognition of Palestine's statehood at the UN. Just the year before, Palestine failed to become a full member of the world body as the United States vowed to use its veto power at the UN Security Council.

Though the UN non-member observer status will enable Palestine to become a full member in UN agencies as well as a member in the International Court of Justice, which would enable the Palestinians to file complaints against Israel, the status upgrade was of more symbolic significance for the Palestinians, said Chen Shuangqing, a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

"Acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state would implicitly recognize the Palestinians' right to create a country of their own. However, under the current situation in which most parts of the Palestinian territories are under the occupation of Israel, it is not realistic to found a Palestinian state with territorial integrity," said Chen.

"On the other hand," Chen said, "Palestine in fact has not realized national unity at this point. It is still under the administration of two different parties with totally different political views."

Yin Gang, a senior researcher on Middle East studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, echoed Chen.

Yin said it is not the right time for Palestine to become a state observer of the UN because it is not yet united and large parts of its territories are still under the control of Israel.

"The bid was not conducive to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks," Yin said to Beijing Review. "For the Palestinians, the bid was of little substantive significance, on the contrary, it could possibly cause them more trouble as they might face pressure from Israel."

Soon after, in a punitive measure, Israel declared the suspension of monthly tax revenues and other funds regularly transferred to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), part of which is used to pay for the electricity bills Palestine owes to Israel.

"This part of tax revenue accounts for about one 10th to one eighth of the PNA's fiscal budget. The suspension will certainly cause financial trouble for the PNA," Yin said.

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