by Ray Fleming

It is probable that the United Nations General Assembly will today vote to upgrade Palestine's representational status at the UN to “non-member observer”. There is no veto in the General Assembly so Israel and the United States cannot block this move despite their very strong objection to it. In Europe, Denmark, France, Norway, Spain and Switzerland have publicly given their support and others are expected to do so when voting.

Except Britain. Yesterday Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain will abstain unless the Palestinians agree to two conditions -- an immediate and unconditional return to the negotiating table with Israel, and an undertaking not to use its new status to seek to extend the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over the occupied territories. Mr Hague is being dishonest when he claims that these conditions are “consistent with our strong support for Palestinian statehood”. They are not. They are long-standing Israeli and US demands that have already been categorically rejected by the Palestinians, and Mr Hague must have known that.

In the House of Commons yesterday Sir Gerald Kaufman put it very well: “The Foreign Secretary is offering Palestine all support short of actual support. He is sitting on his hands.” No responsible authority could accept the kind of specific conditions insisted on by Mr Hague in a situation as uncertain as the future of the Israel-Palestinian relationship.