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General Assembly discusses Palestine's failed UN membership bid
Photo Caption: UN Photo/Manuel Elías

General Assembly discusses Palestine's failed UN membership bid

| @indiablooms | 03 May 2024, 01:10 pm

Palestine’s recent attempt to become a full member of the United Nations was the focus of discussion in the General Assembly on Wednesday.

A 2022 initiative, resolution 262, calls for the UN’s most representative body to meet within 10 days if the veto is used in the Security Council by one of its permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – who are granted this special voting power.

During a Council meeting on 18 April, the US vetoed a draft resolution that would have recommended that the General Assembly hold a vote to allow Palestine full UN membership.

Palestine is a “Permanent Observer State” at the UN, meaning that it can participate in all UN proceedings, except for voting on draft resolutions and decisions in its main organs and bodies.

Council divisions persist

Wednesday’s discussion took place against the backdrop of the ongoing war in Gaza, sparked by the bloody 7 October Hamas-led attacks on Israel.

It was convened “as the divisions in the Security Council persist and hinder the Council's ability to effectively discharge its responsibilities”, Assembly President Dennis Francis said in remarks read on his behalf.

He encouraged countries to use the discussion “as an opportunity to deliberate on how the two main organs of the United Nations – the General Assembly and the Security Council – can work together to achieve a comprehensive just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question”.

US: No opposition to statehood

US Deputy Representative Robert Wood said that as a permanent member of the Security Council, his country has a special responsibility to ensure that its actions further the cause of international peace and security in addition to being consistent with the UN Charter.

He said the report by the Committee on the Admission of New Members reflected that there was not unanimity among members as to whether the applicant met the criteria for membership as set out in Article IV of the UN Charter, including questions around whether it meets the requirements to be considered a State.

In this regard, he said the US has long called on the Palestinian Authority to undertake necessary reforms, noting that “Hamas, a terrorist organisation, is currently exerting power and influence in Gaza, an integral part of the State envisioned in this resolution.” 

Reiterating that Washington continues to strongly support a two-State solution between Israelis and Palestinians, he said the vote “does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood, but instead is an acknowledgment that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties”.

Mr. Wood concluded by noting that the General Assembly is holding two meetings on the casting of the same veto as a group of countries has formally requested a meeting of its 10th Emergency Special Session on the matter.

“We think that the convening of this meeting today is both inconsistent with resolution 262 and is an improper use of the General Assembly's time and resources,” he said.

Palestine: UN membership ‘long overdue’

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, said he stood before the General Assembly “as the massacres against the Palestinian people continue unabated”. 

He said an immediate ceasefire – long called for by the Assembly and demanded by the Security Council – is indispensable and cannot be delayed any further.

Stating that Palestine’s membership in the UN is “long overdue”, he said “we will never accept that the Palestinian people's right to self-determination, to statehood and admission to the UN could be in any way subject to an Israeli veto.”

He said Palestine will now bring the matter for consideration by the General Assembly at the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session and urged the Security Council to reconsider its application for admission.

Mr. Mansour called for every State to use the means available to them to end the carnage in Gaza and advance freedom and peace.

“The time for recognition of the State of Palestine is right now,” he said, expressing gratitude to the more than 140 countries that have taken this “important step”.

“For those who have not yet recognised the State of Palestine, we say there are no grounds for further delay. Those who want to destroy the Palestinian State, and with it any chance for peace, are not waiting,” he said.

Israel: No ‘rogue State’

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan noted that Tuesday marked the end of the Passover holiday and “every Jewish family had an empty hole in their hearts” as they were focused on the atrocities of 7 October and the suffering of Israelis being held hostage by Hamas.

“Yet, as my people mark this Passover with grief, the UN is again seeking to reward the perpetrators of the horrors,” he said.  “The UN couldn't care less about Israel. To hell with our safety, to hell with our future and to hell with our hostages.”

He said, “nothing exemplifies the UN’s rotten values more than the advancement of a Palestinian statehood.”

Mr. Erdan stated that there has never been condemnation of Hamas or a single UN initiative taken for the sake of the Israeli hostages, adding “instead, this body has focused only on recognising a Palestinian terror State”.

He said the Palestinian Authority does not meet the criteria for statehood, and not one Palestinian leader has condemned Hamas.

Granting Palestine full UN membership would only have two “destructive results”, he said – furthering terrorism and sending a clear message to the Palestinians that they never have to sit at the negotiating table, let alone make compromises.

“These UN sessions will be remembered in the future as one of the primary obstacles to resolving the conflict. Remember my words. The UN today is the main impediment to peace,” he said.

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