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General Assembly Strengthens Palestine’s Status at UN — with New Privileges

Results of the General Assembly's vote on the resolution on the status of the Observer State of Palestine. 10 May 2024. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elías

UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2024 (IPS) - The United States and its closest political and military ally, Israel, once again found themselves isolated last week when 143 of the UN’s 193 member states approved a resolution enhancing the role of Palestine providing it with new diplomatic privileges.

And the US, meanwhile, has implicitly threatened to cut off funding– if and when the UN provides legitimacy to Palestine. But that legitimacy is not likely to be achieved as long the US continues to exercise its veto to deny Palestine the status of a full-fledged UN member state.

Currently, Palestine is “a non-member observer state”– a recognition granted by the U.N. General Assembly back in 2012. But any application to become a full U.N. member needs to be approved by the Security Council and at least by two-thirds of the General Assembly.

Ian Williams, President of the New York-based Foreign Press Association (FPA) told IPS: ”I have observed the Israeli reaction to Palestinian approaches for three decades. Israel derides and devalues the UN but is fervent in its opposition to a Palestinian presence. But Israel never walks out, They know that the UN resolutions are their sole legal claim to legitimacy.”

One has to rephrase Groucho Marx’s comments on being excluded from an exclusive club, why would Palestine want to be part of the Club that allows a criminal disreputable member like Israel a platform? The best answer is that it exposes the criminality of Israel and the duplicity of the US.

Sadly, he said, every unprincipled US veto for Israel erodes Washington’s diplomatic standing and lends support to tyrants in Moscow, Damascus and elsewhere, making the US an accomplice to genocide in general not just in the Middle East.

“One suspects that if Israel declared that pi equals three, the State Department would wield its veto to support it, and have its diplomats prove it with maps and diagrams,” said Williams.

The US, which has consistently vetoed Security Council resolutions on UN membership for Palestine, voted against last week’s General Assembly resolution, along with Israel, Argentina, Czechia, Hungary—and four small island developing states, namely., Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Papua New Guinea—probably under US pressure.

Perhaps so did some of the 25 countries that abstained from voting: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Fiji, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Monaco, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vanuatu.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told IPS the US government’s threat to cut funding to the UN if it recognizes Palestinian statehood is a shameful effort to bully a global body into submission.

“Blocking Palestinian self-determination for no reason other than to pacify a rogue Israeli government is the rock bottom of a moral bankruptcy decades in the making,” she said.

According to the UN, Palestine’s new status will include:

    1. To be seated among Member States in alphabetical order
    2. Make statements on behalf of a group
    3. Submit proposals and amendments and introduce them
    4. Co-sponsor proposals and amendments, including on behalf of a group
    5. Propose items to be included in the provisional agenda of the regular or special sessions and the right to request the inclusion of supplementary or additional items in the agenda of regular or special sessions
    6. The right of members of the delegation of the State of Palestine to be elected as officers in the plenary and the Main Committees of the General Assembly
    7. Full and effective participation in UN conferences and international conferences and meetings convened under the auspices of the General Assembly or, as appropriate, of other UN organs

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, Israel Palestine Research Director at DAWN, told IPS the General Assembly vote makes it clearer than ever that the United States is the last remaining barrier blocking Palestinians from any measure of self-determination.

“America is facing growing isolation in the world due to its unquestioned backing of Israel and refusal to support Palestinian rights”, he noted.

Elaborating further, Williams said, apart from annoying (Israel’s Ambassador Gilad) Erdan, an interesting side effect of Palestine’s new privileges is that the delegation moves from a seat in the gallery to the main body of the General Assembly, sandwiched between Panama, which supported Palestine’s bid, and Palau, which never has, and whose ambassador is also the Pacific Atoll’s recently accredited representative to Israel.

“Let us hope, Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour’s team is hospitable to their new neighbor and has time for informative chats about shared histories since ironically the US had thwarted Palau’s own statehood with a threatened veto for many years because the islanders refused access to US nuclear weapons on its territory!’

Presumably Palau’s staunch anti-nuclear stance is flexible enough to accommodate Israel’s nuclear weapons and refusal to sign the NPT, declared Williams, a former President of the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA).

According to a transcript of the Security Council meeting, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the observer State of Palestine, recounted the devastating impacts of the ongoing war in Gaza, with over 35,000 Palestinians killed, a further 80,000 injured and over two million displaced.

“No words can capture what such loss and trauma signify for Palestinians, their families, their communities and for our nation as whole,” he said.

He added that the Palestinians in Gaza have been pushed to the “very edge” of the Strip “to the very brink of life” with “bombs and bullets haunting them”.

Mansour said despite the attacks and destruction, the flag of Palestine “flies high and proud” in Palestine and across the globe, becoming a “symbol raised by all those who believe in freedom and it’s just rule”.

“It is true that we will not disappear, but the lives lost cannot be restored,” he stated.

Mansour said after holding observer status for 50 years, “we wish from all those who invoke the UN Charter to abide by the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination guaranteed by the Charter.”

Ambassador FU Cong of China, a permanent member of the Security Council, said Palestine should have the same status as Israel– and that Palestinian people should enjoy the same rights as Israeli people.

“It is the common responsibility of the international community to support and advance the process of Palestinian independent Statehood, and provide strong support for the implementation of the two-State solution and a lasting peace in the Middle East,” he said

He pointed out that the United States has repeatedly used its veto “in an unjustified attempt” to obstruct the international community’s efforts to correct the “historical injustice long visited on Palestine”.

“It is not commensurate with the role of a responsible major country,” he said.

He also recalled the overwhelming support for the General Assembly resolution, reaffirming the right of Palestinian people to self-determination, and recommending that the Security Council reconsider favourably its application to join the United Nations

“China welcomes this historic resolution, which reflects the will of the international community,” Ambassador Fu declared.

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


  
 
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