Sitting in Britain and watching the Security Council vote yesterday on Palestinian admission to the U.N. in one year with all types of demands built into the resolution, there was an interesting sense of history. The United Kingdom which had a debate in the House of Commons in October and voted overwhelmingly to recommend recognition of the Palestinian state, had announced their opposition to the U.N. resolution as drafted, but abstained in yesterday’s vote. France, which had also previously voted internally to support Palestinian statehood, supported the Security Council resolution. The United States– which several days ago had urged the Palestinians and their supporters to redraft the resolution as the U.S. would not support this resolution in the Security Council—opposed the resolution. What was interesting was that Australia was the only other Security Council member to oppose the resolution.
While there was not much surprise in how the other members voted: China, Russia, Chad, Luxembourg, Argentina, and Chile in favor and Rwanda, Lithuania, Nigeria, and South Korea abstaining, the Australian vote compared to that of the U.K. is noteworthy. There appear to be two interesting observations to be made about Australia's vote. First, it is important to recognize that this member of the British Commonwealth (very much like Canada as well) is striking a very independent voice in its Middle East policy from that of the former Mother country, Great Britain. While admittedly the prior Australian government might well have not voted against this resolution, the current leadership in Australia is significantly more balanced in its policy towards Israel and the peace process than was the previous one. Second, it is no longer automatic that former British colonies have foreign policy positions that are directly in sync with Britain.
In the case of the French vote in favor of the Jordanian resolution, it appears that first and foremost the French remain totally fickle when it comes to politics. The French, having voted early this month to support recognition of a Palestinian statehood, now did the predictable thing in the U.N. and supported it as well in the Security Council; regardless of the language of the resolution. From the perspective of Israel, it continues to be unable to count on reliable objectivity from the French.