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Palestine renews bid to be full member of the UN after 13 years

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Vanessa Frazier of Malta UN Mission with Riyad Mansour of Palestine’s permanent mission, speak about the renewed bid for Palestinian statehood. Though 140 out of 193 UN members already recognise Palestinian statehood, it will depend on the UNSC to finally decide the fate of Palestinian membership bid, the writer says. – Picture: Screenshot

By Abdul Rahman

Ignoring continued US threats, Palestine has revived its bid to become a full member of the United Nations after a gap of almost 13 years. The United Nations Security Council acted on the application and decided to refer the Palestinian application to a specialised committee on Monday, April 8.

The president of the Council, Vanessa Frazier from Malta asked the committee of admission of new members to consider the bid on the same day after the Palestinian application received no objection from any member.

Palestine had applied for full membership on September 23, 2011. However, the application was put on hold due to the fear of a potential US veto which would have derailed the process. Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour wrote to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week asking for the renewal of the bid despite no change in the US stance since it was initially filed.

The renewed bid for full membership has already been endorsed by the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The original bid was made by President Mahmoud Abbas according to resolution 181 of the UN General Assembly, which had divided the historic Palestine into two states of Palestine and Israel in November 1947. The application claims that full statehood is “Palestinian people’s natural, legal and historical right”.

Palestine was first recognised as a state by the UN General Assembly in a vote in November 2012. It was subsequently given the status of a non-member observer state with the right to sit and participate in the proceedings without voting.

“All we ask is to take our rightful place among the community of nations. To be treated as equals. Equals to other nations and states,” said Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN on Monday.

US, its European allies remain sole hurdle

Currently 140 of 193 members of the UN recognise Palestinian statehood. However, the fate of the Palestinian bid for full membership would largely depend on the stance taken by the US and its European veto-holding allies: the UK and France.

The ongoing Israeli war in Gaza has created support for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as a way to express solidarity with Palestinians and put pressure on Israel.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has already announced that his country will recognise Palestinian statehood by July. Similar announcements have been made by three other European countries: Malta, Ireland, and Slovenia earlier. These countries have declared that they will recognise the occupied West Bank and Gaza as part of the Palestinian state as a push for a two-state solution.

Palestine would not be a full member of the UN until the Council recommends its membership bid to the General Assembly. The application for new membership is first voted in the Council and it is required that the majority of the Council vote in its favour. The majority must include all permanent members either saying yes or abstaining. Once adopted by the Council the application is recommended to the General Assembly where it needs the support of at least two-third majority to finally be accepted.

There are two technical criteria a country must fulfil to become a full member in the UN: applicants’ commitment to peace, and its ability and willingness to carry out the obligations ascribed in the UN Charter. The final decision rests on the position taken by the permanent members, in the Palestinian case, primarily the US and its European allies, as Russia and China already recognise the Palestinian state.

The US has so far insisted that Palestinians statehood should follow a negotiated settlement of the conflict with Israel. Robert Wood, US deputy ambassador to the UN repeated the US position on Monday claiming that, Palestinian statehood is a “final status issue” between Israel and Palestine.

The US has also threatened to cut all funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in case it is successful in its bid to get full membership of the UN or any specialised entity without a negotiated settlement with Israel.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch