The landmark vote at the United Nations General Assembly on November 29, where member-states overwhelmingly endorsed an upgrade of Palestine’s status at the UN to that of non-member observer, has caused much discussion and disagreement in the Jewish world and beyond. Whether this event is being used as a shortcut to statehood which undermines a negotiated settlement to the conflict, a largely Israeli take, or an opportunity to breathe new life into the peace process, the view of the Palestinian Authority, remains to be seen.
Africa, which makes up over a quarter of the UN’s membership, gave its overwhelming backing to the resolution. 46 African states voted for it; whilst five abstained (Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Rwanda, and Togo) and three (Equatorial Guinea, Liberia and Madagascar) were not present. Analysts, including Pan African scholar Sitinga Kachipande, have noted that this display of support is even more remarkable in light of the significant economic and political ties most of these countries have to the United States.
It is understandable that our community is deeply unhappy with Mahmoud Abbas's decision to put the case of Palestine before the General Assembly. We have long made a distinction between the bilateral negotiations envisioned by Resolution 242 and the "internationalization of the conflict" that would essentially use the international community as a cudgel to pressure Israel into concessions.
There is also a good legal case that by recognizing Palestine as a state, the Palestinians would also take on the obligations that come with statehood, and thus, Israel would not be subject to the occupied/occupier analysis and the two-state solution, rather than a one-state solution, would be further ensconced in international law. I think, however, that since the vote is largely symbolic, the international community will continue to criticize whatever Israel does over the Green Line, since the criticism was always politically motivated to begin with. I also think prosecutions of Israeli soldiers at the International Criminal Court are unlikely both because of the political considerations and because Israel has a viable judicial system and can investigate its own soldiers.
On November 29, the anniversary of the 1947 UN General Assembly vote to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into "an Arab state and Jewish state," the assembly will vote on a new draft resolution recognizing Palestine as a nonmember observer state. A majority vote in favor is all but guaranteed given the near-automatic support from the nonaligned and Islamic blocs and some other delegations.