Op-Ed: Jamaica’s Mistake on Israel

By David Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor


I WAS DISAPPOINTED that Jamaica voted in favour of the United Nations resolution which lifted the Palestinian Authority from an entity to a non-member observer.

Both Israel and the United States opposed the resolution as being largely counterproductive and symbolic.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Brookings Institution, indicated the US position that the Resolution would “do nothing to advance the peace and the two-state solution we all want to see.”

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice issued a statement after the vote stating “the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties.”

The United Kingdom abstained from voting for the Resolution because of a perceived lack of Palestinian commitment to resuming peace negotiations with Israel.  When that assurance did not arise, Britain abstained.

According to Ambassador Raymond Wolfe’s statement following the vote, Jamaica’s decision was “based on a firm commitment to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East region.”

Such a peace could only be brought about by a negotiated settlement; Jamaica sought a balanced approach to the issue, which recognized, among other things, Israel’s right to exist, he said.

“In Jamaica’s view, the granting of Non-Member Observer State status was on the same level as the status afforded to the Holy See delegation,” he said. “It was not equivalent to membership in the United Nations.”

But why did Jamaica find itself voting for a United Nations Resolution that neither the United Kingdom nor the United states voted for?

It is clear that all stakeholders, including most Israeli interests, are in favour of the right of the Palestinian people to live in peaceful coexistence with Israel. I do not see how the resolution advances this position.

At the time of the vote, Palestine already enjoyed full observer status. The significance of the resolution was the specific reference to Palestine as a state. Palestine is simply not currently a state currently under International Law, however. Among Palestinians there is fundamental controversy about which faction should be in control and what should constitute the very essence of the Palestinian state.

Rendering the Palestinians “state status” will not heal the many internal dissensions between the Palestinian Authority in control of the West Bank and Hamas in control of Gaza. In fact, Israel does not know which representative Palestinian faction to engage in binding negotiations with.

Jamaica has voted for a United Nations Resolution which refers to borders that embrace Gaza and the West Bank within a single coherent Palestinian State. Obviously, this does not exist.

There is no international agreement on Hamas as the prospective representative directorate for the new Palestinian State. As Abbott and Costello would say, “Who’s on First?”

The United Nations cannot create a state of Palestine which is not consistent with practical reality. The leader of the Palestinian Authority,  Mahmoud Abbas, lobbied the United Nations Resolution purely to create political leverage with Israel.

Jamaica has a strong historical relationship with Jews and Israel.

In 1494, Luis De Torres, a marrano Jewish interpreter for Columbus landed on the Island.

In 1530, an entire group of Portuguese and Spanish Jews landed in Jamaica fleeing from religious persecution, and Sephardic (Jews of Spanish heritage) were among the island’s first settlers.

In 1831, a decision by the England-based Privy Council granted the Jewish community in Jamaica official recognition and political equality in Jamaica.

And since 1962, there have been full diplomatic ties between Israel and Jamaica. Sephardic Jews were among the earliest settlers in Jamaica.

Israel has recently offered to help Jamaica find alternative sources of energy (an area in which Israel has made a number of technological advancements) that could ease its balance of payment problems. Jamaica should seek to preserve these ties.

With such a rich relationship between Jamaica, its Jewish community and Israel, it was odd that the government of Jamaica embraced a United Nations vote that was clearly contrary to Israeli interests. To some, Jamaica’s pro-Palestinian vote may have seemed an unnecessary stab in the back.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla.