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General Assembly endorses pathway for full Palestinian Statehood

Originally published: Internationalist 360° on May 10, 2024 (more by Internationalist 360°)

The United Nations General Assembly, on Friday, backed a Palestinian bid to become a full UN member by recognizing it as qualified to join and recommending the UN Security Council “reconsider the matter favourably”, Reuters reports.

The vote by the 193-member General Assembly was a global survey of support for the Palestinian bid to become a full UN member—a move that would effectively recognize a Palestinian State—after the United States vetoed it in the UN Security Council last month.

The assembly adopted a resolution on Friday, with 143 votes in favour and nine against—including the U.S. and Israel—while 25 countries abstained. It does not give the Palestinians full UN membership, but simply recognises them as qualified to join.

The General Assembly resolution “determines that the State of Palestine… should therefore be admitted to membership” and it “recommends that the Security Council reconsider the matter favourably.”

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes seven months into a war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the Occupied West Bank, which the UN considers to be illegal.

“We want peace, we want freedom,” Palestinian UN Ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told the General Assembly before the vote.

A yes vote is a vote for Palestinian existence; it is not against any state… It is an investment in peace.

“Voting yes is the right thing to do,” he said in remarks that drew applause.

Under the founding UN Charter, membership is open to “peace-loving states” that accept the obligations in that document and are able and willing to carry them out.

“As long as so many of you are ‘Jew-hating,’ you don’t really care that the Palestinians are not ‘peace-loving,’” said UN Ambassador, Gilad Erdan, who spoke after Mansour. He accused the Assembly of shredding the UN Charter—as he used a small shredder to destroy a copy of the Charter while at the lectern.

“Shame on you,” Erdan said.

The ambassador said on Monday that, if the measure was approved, he expected the U.S. to cut funding to the United Nations and its institutions, in accordance with American law.

An application to become a full UN member first needs to be approved by the 15-member Security Council and then the General Assembly. If the measure is again voted on by the Council it is likely to face the same fate: a U.S. veto.”The Council must respond to the will of the international community,” United Arab Emirates UN Ambassador, Mohamed Abushahab, told the assembly before the vote.

The General Assembly resolution adopted on Friday does give the Palestinians some additional rights and privileges from September 2024—like a seat among the UN members in the assembly hall—but they will not be granted a vote in the body.

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012.

The Palestinian UN mission in New York said on Thursday—in a letter to UN member states—that adoption of the resolution backing full UN membership would be an investment in preserving the long-sought-for two-state solution.

It said it would “constitute a clear reaffirmation of support at this very critical moment for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State.”

The mission is run by the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007. Hamas launched the 7 October attack on Israel that triggered Israel’s assault on Gaza.

The United Nations has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognised borders. Palestinians want a State in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in the 1967 war with neighbouring Arab states.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations said earlier this week:

It remains the U.S. view that the path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations.

Under U.S. law, Washington cannot fund any UN organisation that grants full membership to any group that does not have the “internationally recognised attributes” of statehood. The United States cut funding in 2011 for the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, after the Palestinians joined as a full member.

On Thursday, 25 U.S. Republican senators—more than half of the party’s members in the chamber—introduced a bill to tighten those restrictions and cut off funding to any entity giving rights and privileges to the Palestinians. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, which is controlled by President Joe Biden’s Democrats.

What does this mean in practice?

The new draft resolution determines that the State of Palestine is “qualified for membership in the United Nations” and should therefore be admitted to membership.

The resolution is being viewed as a way to circumvent the United Nations Security Council in taking a first step towards full membership.

Most remarkably the resolution looks to adopt new rights and privileges for Palestine in procedural matters at the UN, despite the state’s continuing “observer status”, and requests the UN secretary general to implement these privileges.

New privileges also include the right to make statements on behalf of a group, to submit proposals and amendments and introduce them orally, the right of reply, as well as co-sponsor proposals and amendments and to raise procedural motions, among others.

It also grants members of the Palestinian delegation to be elected as officers in the plenary and main committees of the General Assembly.

It does not grant Palestine the right to vote in the GA, propose resolutions or put forward its candidature to UN organs.

It also gives the right to “full and effective participation in United Nations conferences and international conferences and meetings convened under the auspices of the General Assembly”.

The state of Palestine would also be able to be seated among member states in alphabetical order and have the right to be listed as speakers on agenda items other than the Middle East or Palestine.

After the UN General Assembly vote, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Palestine would “continue its endeavour” to obtain full UN membership status and is looking for another vote at the UNSC.


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