The U.N. General Assembly resolution admitting Palestine as a non-member observer State was a blow to Israel, which had been adamantly opposed to it. The resolution won support from 138 countries, among them France and Italy, great friends of Israel. Germany, which, for known historical reasons, supports Israel with conviction, chose to be one of the 41 countries that abstained.
Only eight countries sided with Israel in opposing the resolution: The United States, Canada, the Czech Republic and if its any comfort Panama, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauro and Palau.
In taking their struggle to the United Nations, the Palestinians were following in the footsteps of the Algerians. Six decades ago, the National Liberation Front revolted against the French, who had ruled Algeria for more than 120 years. Despite their fierce fighting, the Algerians failed to make real progress on the ground, so they took their case to the U.N. and mobilized the world against France.
It immediately affected France, which felt isolated and found it more and more difficult to defy the whole world.
The last nail in the coffin of the French rearguard campaign against an independent Algeria was the position of the United States: Newly elected President, John F. Kennedy, while publicly upholding the American-French friendship and cooperation, in essence, told French President Charles de Gaulle that the time of France in Algeria was over. America, anxious to establish its status among the emerging Third World nations, couldnt risk being identified as supportive of colonialist France. Thus, in the summer of 1962, 50 years ago, the French, acknowledging their diplomatic defeat, left Algeria.
Needless to say, there are fundamental differences between the French experience in Algeria and the Israeli one in the Land of Israel, or Palestine.
First and foremost, unlike Algeria for the French, this land was the cradle of the Jewish nation for 3 millenniums, Jews lived there uninterruptedly since, and finally, as my friend Prof. Ilan Troen tells in his superb book, Imagining Zion, the early Zionists were not colonialists trying to create in their new land replicas of the homes they had left behind in Europe, but people returning to their homeland, Zion.
Furthermore, unlike the French, who claimed that Algeria was an integral part of France, Israel never annexed the West Bank and, anyway, Israelis have been willing since day one to partition the land between Arabs and Jews. This is what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009, and this is what Israelis say in poll after poll, where two out of every three of them support a two-state solution.
Most Israelis believe that the Palestinian rejection should bear the blame for the lack of progress.
The world, however, seems to have a different view, and it was expressed loud and clear at the United Nations. Even true friends of Israel maintain that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are the real cause of deadlock, because, on the ground, they make the realization of a viable Palestinian state a very difficult, if not impossible, task.
The Israeli government responded to the U.N. resolution by not only condemning it, but by announcing the building of 3,000 new housing units east of Jerusalem. This caused some European governments to summon the Israeli ambassadors and convey their dismay, and even Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, perhaps the staunchest supporter of Israel anywhere, called Netanyahu and told him that the settlements would further impair efforts to achieve peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
Unlike de Gaulle 50 years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu has the support of an American president (although Barack Obama might not have liked Netanyahus alleged support of Mitt Romney). It remains to be seen, however, how long the United States will be willing, against so many in the world, to put up with the settlement policy of the Israeli government.
Management guru Jim Collins wrote in his book Built to Last that companies that best survived the Great Depression were those that throughout the crisis were sticking to their core values. Netanyahu, in the current crisis, must decide if his predominant core value is settling more Jews in the West Bank or maintaining Israel as a democratic Jewish state. The world is waiting for his decision, and so are the Israelis.
Uri Dromi is a columnist based in Jerusalem.