The Palestinians latest attempt towards statehood via the United Nations has ended in humiliation. Why?
In a surprise, last minute move, Nigerian President and devout Christian Goodluck Jonathan thwarted the passing of the resolution by ordering his country’s ambassador to abstain from a vote recognizing the beginnings of a Palestinian state.
Set on using the international community to formally create a “State of Palestine,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was rejected by the UN Security Council last week in a stunning, and surprising, victory for Israel.
A resolution submitted by Jordan on behalf of the PA called for a full Israeli withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem by 2017 and the establishment of a state based on pre-1967 borders.
While Israel knew that the resolution would ultimately be vetoed by the US should it garner the nine votes needed to pass, drastic action was not needed.
Nigeria’s startling change of heart stood out since diplomats expected a “yes” vote. The PA believed it had Nigeria’s vote secured since it is part of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), a group that claims to be “the collective voice of the Muslim world.”
The swing vote on the Security Council, Nigeria’s abstention changed support for the Palestinian resolution from nine to eight votes, leading to the ultimate downfall of the resolution.
The culmination of three months of vigorous campaigning by the Palestinians at the UN came to an end.
What could have caused Nigeria’s sudden change of heart? The answer may lie in an unexpected place.
To understand the significance of Nigeria’s actions, we need to look no further than the millions of African Christians in Nigeria who support the state of Israel.
According to the PEW Research Center, Nigeria has the largest Christian population of any country in Africa, making Christianity the dominant religion in Nigeria. Between 40-49.3 percent of Nigerians are Christians, with more than 85 million people in Nigeria belonging to some sort of Church.
Since 1953, the number of Christians in Nigeria more than doubled from 21.4 percent to 49.3 percent in 2010.
While Nigeria has usually maintained a position of political neutrality regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, President Jonathan has bolstered ties with Israel since ascending to the presidency. The vote of abstention at the UN marks a historical turning point in support of Israel.
The Nigerian president has made several official and unofficial pilgrimages to Israel. In one October 2013 trip, Jonathan said, “Nigeria and the State of Israel have a very warm relationship.”
During his trips to Israel, Jonathan visited the Western Wall as well as several Christian holy sites throughout the country. In October 2014, Jonathan once again returned to Israel because, as close aids explained to the media, he believes the Holy Land brings him good luck and wanted to receive a divine blessing before the Nigerian elections in 2015.
After the vote at the UN, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally spoke to President Jonathan and issued a statement of thanks.
“I would like to voice…special appreciation for…the president of Nigeira, Goodluck Jonathan” who “told me and promised me, personally, that [he] would not support this resolution. [He] kept their word, and that’s what clinched this matter. I think this is very important for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu stated.
Nigerian Christians have also made their support of Israel known in a very open manner. In 2012, some 30,000 Nigerians visited Israel, the Israeli Embassy estimated. This past Christmas, more than 14,000 Nigerian Christians embarked on a pilgrimage to Israel.
Thanks to a bilateral aviation deal struck between Jonathan and the government of Israel, Nigerian Christians are now able to hop onto a direct flight to Tel Aviv, making it easier for pilgrims to travel to the Holy Land. Thousands more Nigerian pilgrims are expected to visit Israel in 2015.
Aside from religious ties, Nigeria and Israel share a common bond over the fight against radical Islamists and violence against non-Muslims. While Israel battles Hamas on the home -front against an enemy who vows to destroy the country based on religion, Nigeria is doing the same against the Islamist group Boko Haram.
In May, 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram and hidden in the forests of Nigeria. Netanyahu offered direct assistance to Jonathan to help look for the missing girls, an offer Jonathan accepted. Following a Christmas Day attack perpetrated by Boko Haram on three churches in Nigeria that killed dozens, Israel provided Nigerian authorities with lifesaving medical supplies.
Under the leadership of Goodluck Jonathan, it is plain to see that Nigeria’s president is driven by his faith and the support he receives from the millions of Nigerian Christians who in turn support Israel. Jonathan’s public display of support of the Jewish State stems from his religious devotion to God and to God’s Bible.
For a man who makes no apologies over being a Christian Zionist and is backed by millions of Nigerian Christians, Nigeria’s surprising turn at the UN Security Council should be no surprise at all, but rather a moment of clear divine inspiration.