Brian Topp, the first declared candidate for the NDP leadership, said at his press conference on Monday that Canada should vote in favour of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. Although a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is certainly desirable, the idea of purporting to grant statehood to an entity without defined borders or an agreed-upon governing body is ill-considered.
Moreover, Mr. Topp has prematurely taken a position on a resolution that has not yet been formulated. It has no settled wording. Nor has it been decided whether the resolution will be tabled only in the General Assembly, which has power to grant the status of a non-member “observer state,” or whether it will go to the Security Council, which would be required for actual UN membership. A Palestinian resolution will probably pass in the Assembly, but would be vetoed in the Council by at least one of its permanent members.
Fatah, which governs parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza, are not in accord, in spite of their unity agreement in May, which has not been implemented. Their unreal coalition may have been devised partly to give an appearance of consensus for the sake of politics at the UN. The upshot is that there is no generally accepted Palestinian leadership – and the powers that be in Gaza have begun to dissociate themselves from the statehood resolution.
The proposed observer-state status is based on an erroneous analogy with the Vatican, a small enclave with clear borders, as well as a long-established government, which has had a treaty for many decades with Italy, the large nation-state that surrounds it.
The Netanyahu government of Israel bears part of the blame for the lack of progress toward two states, but a resolution that would promote a fiction is no solution.
The NDP leadership campaign is not a good forum for debating this matter. To be sure, Brian Topp’s announcement of his candidacy was not primarily about foreign policy, but he ventured into the Palestinian question in answer to a question. He was unwise to do so, and to take the stand he did.