US vetoes Palestine bid for full UN membership

The US vetoed a resolution to approve Palestine's application for full membership in the United Nations on April 18. The resolution before the Security Council was put forward by Algeria, and received 12 votes in favor—more than the required nine. Two countries, the UK and Switzerland, abstained.

Palestine has been a Permanent Observer State at the UN since 2012, when the General Assembly passed a resolution granting it that status amid a lack of Security Council support for full membership. As a Permanent Observer State, a status shared with the Holy See, Palestine can participate in all UN proceedings, but it cannot vote on draft resolutions or decisions. Palestine has been seeking UN membership since it submitted its application in 2011, and recently pushed the Security Council to vote on its status.

The UN charter says that membership is open to "peace-loving states which accept the obligations" of the charter. To be admitted as a full member, a state's application must be approved by the Security Council with at least nine votes and no vetos, as well as a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly. More than 100 states have been admitted to the UN using this procedure. 

The US defended its veto, saying it was necessary to promote negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. It claimed that unilateral recognition at the UN would jeopardize the two-state solution, saying that "premature actions here in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people." It argued that reforms were necessary "to help establish the attributes of readiness for statehood," including addressing Hamas' rule over Gaza. The US insisted: "This vote does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood, but instead is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties."

Palestine's representative at the UN, Riyad Mansour, said that voting to admit Palestine as a full member would "revive the hope that has been lost among our people" and reestablish a path toward realizing a two-state solution. He thanked the majority of Security Council members who voted for full membership, stating that they "have risen to...this historic moment, and they have stood on the side of justice and freedom and hope, in line with the ethical and humanitarian and legal principles that must govern our world and in line with simple logic." Mansour expressed determination, saying the US veto "will not break our will." He added: "The State of Palestine is inevitable. It is real. Perhaps they see it as far away, but we see it as near, and we are the faithful."

Israel applauded the US veto, with its UN ambassador Gilad Erdan thanking President Biden in a post on X (formerly Twitter). Erdan described the US veto as preventing a "destructive move" to "impose a Palestinian terrorist state," and told the Security Council that the vote "will only embolden Palestinian rejectionism even more and make peace almost impossible." He criticized the Security Council for not specifically condemning Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, claiming it "refuse[d] to do the moral and right thing" and saying that speaking to the Council was "like talking to a brick wall."

From Jurist, April 18. Used with permission.

Note: Some 140 countries have already recognized the state of Palestine since it won Permanent Observer State status. (AP)

UN General Assembly backs Palestine membership bid

The UN General Assembly voted by a wide margin May 10 to grant new "rights and privileges" to Palestine and called on the Security Council to reconsider Palestine's request to become the 194th member of the United Nations.

The 193-member world body approved the Arab-sponsored resolution by a vote of 143-9 with 25 abstentions. The United States voted against the resolution, along with Israel, Argentina, the Czech Reublic, Hungary, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Papua New Guinea.

The upgrades to Palestine's status are set to take effect when the 79th session of the assembly opens in September. These include a number of key changes, such as being seated alphabetically among member states, the right to make statements, propose and co-sponsor amendments, and request agenda items in UN sessions. These changes will significantly enhance Palestine's participation within the UN framework.

However, while the vote expands Palestine's privileges, it will remain a non-member observer state without the right to vote in the General Assembly, or at any of its conferences. And the United States has made clear that it will block Palestinian membership and statehood until direct negotiations with Israel resolve key issues, including security, boundaries and the future of Jerusalem.

Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan vehemently opposed the resolution, accusing member states of seeking "to reward modern-day Nazis with rights and privileges." 

Erdan said if an election were held today, Hamas would win, and warned UN members that they were "about to grant privileges and rights to the future terror state of Hamas." He held up a photo of Yehya Sinwar, the mastermind of the Hamas attack on Israel, saying a terrorist "whose stated goal is Jewish genocide" would be a future Palestinian leader.

Erdan finished by using a hand-held device to symboically shred a copy of the UN Charter, saying it "is being trampled on and thrown out the window." (AP, Jurist)