WJC ANALYSIS – Seeing double: Palestinians at the NAM summit in Iran

By Pinhas Inbari

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah barely escaped major embarrassment last week after Iran invited both PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas and his challenger in Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, to attend the inauguration of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran. Ramallah was deeply shocked to learn that Haniyya was not invited as a mere guest or observer but as a formal representative of Palestine and its Prime Minister. To make matters worse, Iran’s official news agency ‘Mehr’ published Hamas’ letter accepting to attend the summit for all to see.

Hamas’ official presence at the summit would have presented a manifold problem for Ramallah. The PLO is the only Palestinian organization that belongs to the original founders’ generation. Sharing representation with Hamas is therefore perceived as a blow to its legitimacy. Moreover, the invitation to Hamas served as a clear recognition of the split within Palestinian leadership where Abbas is perceived as the representative of the West Bank and Haniyeh as that of Gaza. Both leaders come with an elaborate delegation akin to those from the split Korean peninsula.

This double representation of the Palestinian people is extremely problematic for Ramallah, whose main goal is to mobilize mass support for its United Nations General Assembly bid for statehood. President Abbas sought to succeed with the non-aligned movement where he failed with the Security Council, i.e. to submit a document seeking statehood on behalf of the non-aligned movement. However, the group will hardly mobilize to support Abbas’ cause if it sees an evident split in the Palestinian leadership.

Despite Iran’s eventual decision to request that Hanniya cancel his visit, events behind the scenes were of little comfort to Ramallah.

According to Palestinian sources, Ramallah was aware that Iranian leader Khamenai strongly supported Haniyya’s attendance and refused to cancel it. It was only an intervention by non-Arab powers that convinced Iranian authorities to change their mind. Furthermore, sources in Ramallah report that Iran promised to extend Haniyeh a formal invitation after the conclusion of the summit, leaving the damage to Palestinian unity intact.

Iran’s hostility towards the PLO originates in Yasser Arafat’s decision to forsake ties with the Khomeini revolution in favor of an alliance with the ayatollahs’ arch enemy Saddam Hussein. Khomeini planned to use the Palestinian cause as major tool to export the revolution. The Islamic Jihad was then established as the Islamic branch of Fatah, which planned to take over the PLO in due time. However, Arafat betrayed the ayatollahs and paved the way for long-term hostility between the Palestinian leaders and the Islamic Republic.

Despite the rift between them, the PLO is keen to convince Iran, the leader of the non-aligned movement, to support its unilateral bid for statehood at the UN. Accordingly, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh al-Malki told the summit’s foreign ministers forum that the Palestinian bid for statehood was not about establishing a new state but about inflicting lethal damage on Israel by pursuing it in international tribunals for war crimes and seeking economic compensation for Israel’s settlement policy and the theft of Palestinian wealth.

It is doubtful that Iran will be tempted to forget the past in favor of exacting more damage on Israel. Tehran is much more interested that an Islamic nation lead the assault on Israel than the secular PLO. Additionally, the pursuit of Israel in international tribunals for war crimes is tricky for Iran as many in the international community would immediately argue that Iran’s actions are hypocritical, for it should first address the war crimes committed by its ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Mahmoud Abbas’ presence in Tehran caused not only friction with the ayatollahs but discord with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia whose King Abdullah ignored a personal invitation submitted by Iranian President Ahmadinejad and did not attend the conference. Furthermore, the Mecca Islamist Conference ignored any mention of Jerusalem and paid lip service to the Palestinian problem, denying any support for the statehood bid..

Despite the awkward dynamic of the summit, non-aligned movement countries will no doubt vote in favor of the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UNGA. Their verbal support for the Palestinian cause will be a comfort to Mahmoud Abbas who, once a decision is made to launch the bid, will approach the UN without a partner in Gaza but with a major diplomatic arsenal against Israel.

September 3, 2012 | 4 Comments »

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  1. “Despite the awkward dynamic of the summit, non-aligned movement countries will no doubt vote in favor of the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UNGA.”


    “If we take a horse’s tail and call it a leg, how many legs will the horse then have?”

    “The correct answer,” said Mr Lincoln, “is four.

    “You see, gentlemen, you can call a horse’s tail a ‘leg’

    — but that does not make it a leg.”


    The General Assembly has no authority to promise anything, no authority to grant anything, no authority to command anything, no authority to CREATE…. anything. Its decisions are not binding, or in any respect legally obligatory. They are not self-executing, or in any other capacity dispositive.

    That is the exclusive power, province & preserve of the Security Council. [Furthermore, only certain categories of even that body’s decisions — those taken under Chap. VII: “threats to world peace” — have mandatory authority.]

    The General Assembly may merely discuss — and propose or recommend. And pursuant to that, it can study & investigate. That’s as far as it goes.

    UNGA decisions are purely advisory or hortatory. They are expressions of sentiment (or posture); nothing more.

    And the mere, acknowledged fact that UNGA Res. 181 passed, as it did in ’47, and with, finally, the designated two-thirds majority vote specially required for “important questions” (rather than with only the more usual & easier, simple majority), is quite beside the point. In fact, had the resolution required, and attained, passage by unanimous vote, it STILL would not — could not — have been legally binding. [Articles 10-14 of the UN Charter; Rule 69, Report of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations, 1945]

    It wasn’t 181 that made Israel a state in 1947-48.

    And there’s no way the General Assembly can make the Palys a “state” today

    — regardless of how much silly putty they put on the table.

  2. Former Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko was asked how the Soviets would have responded in the Iranians had captured their embassy in Tehran. His response was along the lines of “Tehran would’ve been a hole in the ground by noon the next day”. Unlike certain presidents, he probably meant it.

  3. Mess with the West and you get more foreign aid; more soon to be worthless fiats.

    Mess with Russia and you will be dissected into 10 pieces and delivered to a dog kennel.

  4. For a list of NAM members see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-Aligned_Movement

    The NAM members form a group of nations and those entities having observer status that consider themselves not aligned formally with or against any major power bloc.

    It is a collection of states that are in the main anti-American/West and anti-Israel. I expect they are not so much, if at all anti-Russia because they know that if they mess with Russia, Russia, unlike the West, will not hesitate to make them suffer.

    The group is 2nd only to the UN. The Organization of Islamic Conference has 56 member states.

    Those that propose a new organization of Western democratic states that represents Western interests at the UN has not gotten off the ground.

    With the democratic West creating a power vaccuum by not being able to resolve differences and stand together, the malcontent 3rd world nations and a host of others that share the same anti-Israel, anti-American, anti-Western jealousy, suspicions and hatred have become effective in swaying world opinion to their view or moving others to the NAM view because it could hurt their own interests if they said otherwise.

    Too bad how the so called sophisticated modern rich powerful democratic Western nations can’t get it together and act in unity to advance their common interests as all the backwards, poor sick hate filled non-democratic nations of the world can.

    For a reputedly sophisticated intelligent and powerful West, the West sure doesn’t act like it possesses any of these qualities.