UN Vote Upgrades Palestine to “non-member state” Status

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The Big News

While alarmists warn that abrupt changes equate to instability and uncertainty, some developments just keep defying the status quo. Palestine last week has successfully been granted a “non-member” observer State status at the United Nations General Assembly.

The 193-member assembly adopted a vote that saw 138 in favor and 9 against the resolution. Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said this is a significant step in achieving Palestine’s independence as well as brings it closer to rectifying “unprecedented historical injustice” inflicted on the Palestinian people since 1948.

Unsurprisingly, the upgrade has been met with condemnation in Israel. Just as the vote concluded, Israel announced it will go ahead with new settlements in occupied territory including a high-profile construction plan near Jerusalem. Israeli spokesperson Mark Regev said that this development will further withdraw constructive dialogue and that “its going to hurt peace.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel will withhold badly-needed tax transfers to Palestinians and that his government “rejects the U.N General Assembly decision.”

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice also openly denounced the resolution, echoing her Israeli allies saying that her government does not support a measure that undermines direct talks and that the November 22 decision did “not establish Palestine as a state.” She also added that the decision will not advance peace in the Middle East. With Washington’s backing, Israel lobbied voting nations to oppose the measure, but failed miserably. Israel’s position was so unpopular that even its traditional allies/sympathizers either abstained or voted for the Palestinians.

On the other hand, the Israeli and American statements were met with concern by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, expressing that such “would represent any almost fatal blow to remaining chances for securing a two-state solution.” Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief was quoted as saying “the European Union has repeatedly stated that all settlement construction is illegal under international law and constitutes an obstacle to peace.”

The Big Repercussions

Finally in its modern period, Palestine now has the capacity for self determination, especially before an international criminal court. It can now claim rights to independent development, free of Israel. This means that Palestine now can  independently control its borders, or assert its own security and pursue its own trade with the world.

There can be no denying that the Palestinian upgrade to statehood can mean only good things for its people and its future. Abbas was jubilant and optimistic for his people, saying “we now have a state…the world has said loudly, ‘Yes to the state of Palestine.”

But as these developments seal a better self-determination for Palestine, Israel is met with a new set of problems of its own. For one, with the upgrade to non-member observer state status, Palestine can now be a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice, similar to Switzerland’s accession in 1946 when the General Assembly accepted it as a Permanent Observer to the United Nations. As such, Palestine now can file complaints against Israel in the world court. Palestine now also has the choice to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and file a complaint against Israel on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly even genocide.

Can the US (and Israel) block complaints by Palestine? Unfortunately for them, they cannot, since they are not signatories of the Rome treaty. Much like how they arrogantly behaved at the recent Assembly, the US  announced back in 2002 that “the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty,” and that, “[a]ccordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature.” On the other hand, Israel’s indifference and naive behavior betrays not only international trust but also its very existence — it does not recognize the resolution that permitted the Palestinian upgrade to non-member observer state status and yet it forgets the fact that its very own existence was a result of 1948 UN resolution which permitted its right to self determination and independent existence.

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Four Years On: Did We Really Recede from the Recession?

As much as the political elite in the US and EU would like us to believe we ‘recovered’ from the great economic meltdown of 2008, so much of it is actually the reciprocal: unending  declines in investor confidence, clipping of businesses, credit downgrades, social spending cuts, protracted unemployment, very minimal hiring, housing still puling the economy down, and the default predicaments haunting the EU.

All these seem to point to a double-dipped recession, although unsurprisingly, policy makers, especially the ones supporting wars abroad do not admit to this. It is reasonably to state that unemployment in the US is the biggest hindrance to a ‘real recovery’. For one, a high unemployment rate directly affects two things: without jobs, people dramatically cut their spending. As an effect, the government then spends billions to save these people from becoming destitute. This means a reduction in GDP, a tighter government budget, and more deficits. Although some sectors have recovered, such as the auto industry, they arrived at recovery via the layoff route.

Add to that the rise in oil prices this year due to the new Arab Spring and you get inflation back in the picture. Consumers spend even less when confronted with high prices: cotton price has gone up this year thus increasing the price of basic clothing by at least 20%, and the same goes for food like sugar, meat, and corn-based products.

Real estate and housing could be the real drag to US recovery from the 2008-2009 recession. Home equity continues to decline since 2006, so worse today than before that companies are tearing down unsold homes to avoid taxes. As a result, uncertainty in the housing sector also drags finance and net wealth sectors and most especially construction.

Also less obvious is the fact that non-financial companies are holding on to their stimulus money at near record levels, and the consumer is not far from doing so as well. What does this mean? This means that they are more nervous about the future, much like saving up for the stormy days, as they say.

Did we just record a 1.3% GDP growth and 9% unemployment this year? As such, it is hard to see whether Bernanke and his economists were too quick to declare the end of the economic meltdown. In addition to confidence, economic indicators really do point to a recession that really never ended.

On the one hand, as well all know, the NBER (responsible for calling the shot on the start and end of a recession) was unsure to declare that the 2008-2009 recession was really over during 2009. It’s been two summers since, and same as in 2010, this year, more people are convinced that we really didn’t recover and that we are headed to another disaster. Historically, it took the NBER almost 1 year to admit that the recession started in December 2007 and that it took almost 2 years to announce that the IT bubble of 2001 was over. Who knows when the NBER will announce the end of this present recession?