The strong historical relationship between African national liberation organizations and the PLO; the strain of the Yom Kippur War on Israel’s previously close diplomatic ties with the governments of newly independent African states; and even recent events such as the belief on the continent that Israel carried out the air strikes on alleged weapons facilities in the Sudan’s capital in October 2012 and widespread outrage over Israel’s unrelenting settlement expansion, are all believed to have played a role in swinging Africa’s vote. Kachipande emphasizes that even those African states which abstained have all since extended diplomatic acknowledgment to Palestine, suggesting that their votes were a matter of self-interest on this issue. In the post-colonial context, the African bloc’s vote is not necessarily a stand against the State of Israel but can be seen as an expression of solidarity with Palestine over shared issues of self-determination. Indeed, it must be remembered that many African countries issued statements in support of full statehood for Palestine and a two-state solution.
In South Africa a statement released prior to the UN vote indicated that the government, “fully supports Palestine’s bid for Observer State status at the United Nations … as a necessary step in the advancement of the Palestinian cause and calls upon all countries to support Palestine in this endeavour”. This statement went on to say, “that the only way to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East, is to have a comprehensive and unconditional negotiated settlement to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories and Israel’s continued blockade of Gaza”. Indeed, the SA government believes, “the ongoing delay in achieving such a settlement leads to an unending cycle of violence”. Taking a different view, leaders of the South African Jewish community felt that any unilateral action in the context of the conflict would prove unhealthy, and stressed the need for dialogue and negotiations between both sides as the only way to end the impasse.
The extent to which the outcome of this UN vote will change the situation on the ground, for both Israel and Palestine, remains to be seen. Sadly, my feeling is that not much will change in the day to day struggles and fears facing both peoples. As each nation on either side of the conflict, as well as their supporters around the world, grow increasingly weary of this seemingly intractable conflict, it is essential that any steps that can be taken to bring about a final, just and peaceful engagement and resolution of the conflict must be carried out.
 The information on the African vote on Palestinian observer status is drawn from S. Kachipande’s article, ‘Africa Stands with Palestine at the UN’. Found at http://thinkafricapress.com/politics/africa-says-yes-palestine-un, accessed 6/12/12