After more than 50 years of relationship severance – if there was ever a relationship – the United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations on July 20th. A week before that, the United States and Iran were reaching an agreement on the nuclear deal. And yesterday, another historic moment was reached with the Palestinian flag being hoisted up for the first time at the United Nations.
Perhaps it is because of the wind of change blowing on some of the United States’ difficult diplomatic relations that Mahmoud Abbas felt emboldened to make the kind of speech he made at the tribune of the United Nations. In it, he mentioned that his people were no longer bound by the Oslo peace accords.
The peace accords date from more than two decades ago and outline the security, economic and other arrangements in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel during and after the 1967 war. But as Mahmoud Abbas pointed out, “we cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel and Israel must assume fully all its responsibility as an occupying power.”
Indeed, since the signing of the agreements, and especially since Binyamin Netanyahu accessed power, the terms of the agreements have continually been violated. The expansion of Israeli settlements and the construction of the security barrier by Israel have encroached on Palestinian territories. After having let go off the 78% of the territory they claimed as theirs, Palestinians can no longer say they benefit from the 22% the peace agreements acknowledged as theirs.
Mr Abbas’ speech then at the United Nations tribune yesterday expressed the frustration of the Palestinian people, even if some of his own people felt that he couched the speech in unnecessary ambiguity. A 23 year-old who watched the speech in the city of Ramallah said, “It was expected that the president would say he isn’t going to abide by the agreements. We’ve reached a blocked path with Israel, but I doubt this will be a solution.”
Who knows however? One thing is sure, Palestine has started to take its place on the international stage. In 2012, it became a non-member observer state, allowing it then to attain voting rights in other United Nations agencies, join the international criminal court and has even threatened to seek war-crime prosecutions against Israel. And yesterday, its flag went up at the United Nations. These are privileges that Palestine hasn’t previously enjoyed, and despite a message from Mr Netanyahu’s office that Mahmoud Abbas was being “deceitful”, it might be wise for the Israeli authorities to consider the changes afoot in international relations.
Mr Obama’s second term has been characterised by the establishment of bridges of dialogue with those who were previously considered enemies of the United States. In June, in an interview he gave to Israel channel 2, he expressed doubts as to whether “Israel was serious about a two-state solution”. Maybe Mr Netanyahu needs to consider this new trajectory of the wind.