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The Palestinian bid to become the 194th member state of the United Nations has come one step closer to collapse – at least for now. There has been no formal Security Council vote as of yet. However, the United Nations Security Council’s Committee on the Admission of New Members, consisting of representatives from all fifteen Security Council member states, adopted a report on November 11th indicating that they were unable to reach a consensus concerning what recommendation to make to the Security Council on the Palestinian application for full membership in the United Nations.
“We will be studying this report and the whole exercise thoroughly … and we will make a determination very quickly as to the next step forward in the U.N. system,” Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour told reporters. Only “one powerful country” is blocking Palestine’s UN membership, he claimed. However, it appears that the Palestinians have been unable to round up the nine supporters in the Security Council that would vote their way and force the United States to use its veto to block their membership application from moving forward.
As described in the report, the committee was deadlocked:
The view was expressed that the Committee should recommend to the Council that Palestine be admitted to membership in the United Nations. A different view was expressed that the membership application could not be supported at this time and an abstention was envisaged in the event of a vote. Yet another view expressed was that the applicant did not meet the requirements for membership and a favourable recommendation to the General Assembly would not be supported.
The committee report will be taken up the Security Council itself at some undetermined future date, most likely after the conclusion of the Arab League’s November 16th meeting in Cairo with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Depending on what is decided at the Arab League meeting, Lebanon, the Palestinians’ leading advocate on the Security Council, may try to force a vote on a draft resolution recommending Palestine’s admission. If so, it would need nine votes to pass and no veto. The U.S. will be one of the members casting a negative vote. Germany and Colombia may also vote no, or simply abstain. France and the United Kingdom will probably abstain, along with Portugal and the nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This leaves eight current Security Council members most likely willing to support the Palestinians’ application – Russia, China, Lebanon, Brazil, Nigeria, Gabon, South Africa, and India.
Thus, currently it appears that the Palestinians are at least one vote shy of the nine supportive votes they need to pass the resolution and thereby force the U.S. into a diplomatic corner by having to veto the resolution. Without the nine positive votes to pass the resolution, a U.S. ‘no’ vote is not considered a veto overturning a resolution that would otherwise have passed.
In view of their being one vote short, the Palestinians may prefer to wait until next year to press for a formal vote. Five non-permanent seats will have changed hands, which may present a better chance of securing nine votes in their favor.
In the meantime, the Palestinians can be expected to apply directly to the General Assembly for an upgrade of their status to a non-member observer state, building upon their recent admission as a member state of UNESCO.
Palestinian UN representative Mansour emphasized the symbolic importance of the UNESCO vote, saying “now it is a fact that we do exist in the U.N. system as a state.” They are certain to obtain the majority they need in the General Assembly for an upgrade to a non-member observer state status on par with the Vatican. The United States has no veto power in the Assembly to block it.
While an upgrade to an observer state status by the General Assembly will not entitle the Palestinians to all of the privileges of full UN-wide membership, it will represent recognition by the world’s most inclusive international body of their statehood aspirations and will allow the Palestinians to press claims against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
The report adopted by the Security Council Committee on the Admission of New Members summarized the members’ different perspectives, without specific attribution, on whether Palestine meets the requirements for admission as the 194th member state of the United Nations. These requirements are contained in Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations. With the help of legal experts, the committee members considered whether the existing Palestinian governing entity met the criteria for statehood, was peace-loving, and was willing and able to carry out the obligations contained in the Charter.
By all objective measures, the Palestinians fail on all counts. But the UN is anything but objective when it comes to the Palestinian issue.
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