Middle East

UN member nations vote overwhelmingly to back Palestinian membership bid

By Richard Roth, Hira Humayun and Caitlin Stephen Hu, CNN

United Nations CNN  —  A United Nations resolution in support of Palestinian membership passed with overwhelming support on Friday, and granted new privileges to the Palestinian Authority in its current capacity as a non-member observer state.

The resolution won a resounding majority of 143 votes in favor. Twenty five abstained, and nine nations voted against the text: Czechia, Hungary, Argentina, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Israel and the United States.

The text, put forward by the United Arab Emirates, calls for the UN’s powerful Security Council – which must rule on Palestinian membership – to “reconsider the matter favorably.”

“The State of Palestine is qualified for membership in the United Nations,” it asserts.

With emotion running high on Friday, more than 100 national representatives asked to speak about the resolution, with most emphasizing strong support for Palestinian statehood no matter how they voted.

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour at the UN in New York City on May 10, 2024.

In remarks before the vote, Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour spoke passionately about the plight of Palestinians in wartorn Gaza. “As we speak, 1.4 million Palestinians in Rafah wonder if they will survive today,” he told the assembly, referring to Israeli threats of a major attack on the densely populated city in southern Gaza.

He also thanked protesters on US university campuses and abroad who have demonstrated against the Israel-Hamas war. “Our flag flies high and proud in Palestine and across the globe, and on the campus of Columbia University. It has become a symbol by all those who believe in freedom and is just ruled by all those who can no longer stand idly by in the face of such utter injustice,” Mansour said.

Israel foreign minister Israel Katz quickly condemned the resolution’s passage, describing it as a an “absurd decision” that highlights “the structural bias of the UN” and rewards the actions of Hamas on October 7.

“The message that the UN is sending to our suffering region: violence pays off,” he said. “The decision to upgrade the status of Palestinians in the UN is a prize for Hamas terrorists after they committed the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.”

New rights and privileges

While a General Assembly vote cannot confer UN membership, the approved resolution does endow the Palestinian Authority with new procedural rights and privileges.

Only member states can vote, but the Palestinian Authority can now be seated among member states in alphabetical order; submit and introduce proposals and amendments; and co-sponsor proposals and amendments.

It can also make statements and explanations of votes, and has the right to reply on behalf of a group within the UN. It can also request proposals to be put to a vote and request items to be put on the UNGA’s provisional agenda.

The Palestinian Authority will now request full membership from the Security Council, according to Mansour.

The US has already warned that it will likely veto such a request in the Security Council – a replay of its April veto of an earlier Palestinian membership request.

Following the general assembly vote on Friday, US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood described the resolution text as “unproductive,” saying a “durable peace” in the Middle East would mean bundling the two-state solution with other elements.

“Gaza cannot be a platform for terrorism, that there should be no Israeli reoccupation of Gaza and that the size of Gaza’s territory should not be reduced,” he said.

Wood also suggested that the United Nations was the wrong forum for consideration of Palestinian statehood, telling the General Assembly that “it remains the US view that the most expeditious path toward statehood and UN membership for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan at the UN headquarters in New York City on May 10, 2024.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan also made emotional remarks before the assembly before the vote, accusing resolution supporters of voting to “advance the establishment of a Palestinian terror state” and shredding part of the UN charter while standing at the organization’s storied rostrum in New York

“This is your mirror so that you can see exactly what you are inflicting upon the UN charter with this destructive vote,” Erdan said, holding up a small paper shredder.

Hours later, UN spokesman Farhan Haq defended the charter, telling press that “this is an organization that is premised on respect for the UN charter and all of the member states have pledged to uphold the UN charter and we expect them to fulfill that obligation”, said the spokesman.

“As long as this organization exists, the charter exists,” Haq added.

In September 2011, the Palestinian Authority failed to win UN recognition as an independent member state. A year later, the UN decided that the Palestinian Authority’s “non-member observer entity” status would be changed to “non-member observer state,” similar to the Vatican.

This is a developing story. It will be updated…

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