TBILISI, DFWatch — It has caused great controversy in Georgia that its representatives at a session of the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of Palestine being given observer status in the world organization.

The vote comes amidst a time of criticism against the new Georgian goverment in European and US media, and is dubbed by some Saakashvili supporters as almost a U-turn in Georgia’s foreign policy.

Georgia’s support for upgrading the status of Palestine was also criticised by the Israeli Ambassador to Georgia.

At a press conference Monday, Ambassador Yuval Fuchs told journalists that Israel is ‘dissappointed’ by how Georgia voted, and said a planned visit by the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister is postponed indefinitely. However, when asked he did not want to comment on whether the postponement is related to how Georgia voted in the UN.

The visit was to have taken place by the end of 2012.

November 29, 2012, the UN General Assembly voted on whether to grant Palestine status as a non-member observer state. 138 countries voted for the proposal, including Georgia. 41 countries abstained, while nine, including the USA and Israel voted against. Israel’s traditional European allies, such as the UK, France, Italy and Germany, voted either in favor of the resolution or abstained.

Shota Malashkhia, one of the leaders of Saakashvili’s National Movement faction in the newly elected Parliament, accuses the new government of turning its back on the US and supporting Hamas, even though it was not Hamas representing the Palestinian Authority in New York, but President Mahmoud Abbas, a bitter rival of Hamas.

“At this stage, independence of Palestine is independence of Hamas,” Malashkhia told DF Watch, and he added that this move “clearly indicates” Georgia’s changing foreign policy course.

The Georgian representatives at the UN in a short statement explained the country’s position regarding the decision, saying that Georgia is geographically close to the Middle East and supports Palestine’s right to statehood and the security of Israel.

According to the statement, the new resolution regarding Palestine doesn’t mean it has a right to join the world organization with status as a state, but it is a privilege and gives it certain new rights as a non-member observer state.

Davit Darchiashvili, former chair of parliament’s committee on Euro-Integration, and now a prominent member of Saakashvili’s National Movement faction in the new parliament, says that it’s a bit hard for him to characterize Georgia’s decision regarding Palestine, but he says that the decision has not been discussed in the country or in parliament.

He told DF Watch that if Georgia’s position in voting contradicts the US position, the issue needs “at least more discussion.“

“Such an important decision should be made through consultations including through cooperation with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the parliament,” Darchiashvili told DFWatch. He claims that the decision had not been discussed in the parliament and it was entirely unfamiliar to him.

“The main thing is that this is a risky topic and all nuances should be taken into account,” he told us.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Davit Jalaghania on Monday stated that the decision was not made superficially. According to him, Georgian diplomats had had intense consultations with the US, Europe, Israel and Israel’s Ambassador to Georgia.

“One of our main priorities is to achieve stability and peace in this region through negotiations,” Jalaghania said.

The Deputy Minister notes that it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but Georgia followed special attitudes to this region. He said, in 1992 Georgia recognized Palestine. In addition, the country has regularly supported UN resolutions which concerned the humanitarian situation and has always condemned violence and terror.

In addition he remarked that Georgia doesn’t review the new status as a status for Palestine as a permanent member of the UN. Jalaghania said Georgia’s decision would not influence bilateral relations and Israel has not protested the decision until now.

Also on Monday, Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released an official statement, which said that it hopes that the vote will not have a negative influence on Georgia-Israel relations.

Israeli Ambassador Yuval Fuchs told journalists at a press conference on Monday that Israel is disappointed with Georgia’s decision. He said there were negotiations with Georgia on this issue, but finally a decision was made to support the upgraded status of Palestine.

He said it won’t affect diplomatic relations between the two states and the mission continues to work in Georgia.

April 25, 1992 Georgia recognized the independence of Palestine. Two months later, in June 1992, Georgia and Israel established diplomatic relations.

According to information from the Georgian diaspora in Israel, there are about 2 000 Georgian citizens who live legally in Israel, while about 7 000 are living there illegally. Israel and Georgia cooperate in technology, communication, agriculture, tourism, education and culture and other areas.