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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

UN General Assembly backs membership for Palestine

The US is expected to veto the resolution at the Security Council

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution accepting Palestine as the 194th member of the world body on Friday. The US has previously vetoed Palestinian statehood at the Security Council, however.

Palestine has been a non-voting observer in the global body since 2012. The new resolution would grant it “new rights and privileges,” as well as full membership if approved by the Security Council. It was adopted with 143 votes in favor, nine against, and 25 abstentions.

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US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood said his government was opposed to the resolution, indicating that Washington would veto Palestinian membership at the council again – as it did last month.

Friday’s resolution included an expression of “deep regret and concern” by the General Assembly that the US had vetoed the admission of Palestine on April 18, and urged the council to “reconsider the matter favorably” in line with the UN Charter and decisions by the International Court of Justice.

The General Assembly voiced its “unwavering support for the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders.”

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused the General Assembly of “shredding the UN Charter with this vote,” proceeding to feed a copy of the document through a paper shredder he brought to the podium.

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Though Israel has nominally accepted the idea of Palestinian statehood in the abstract, the government in West Jerusalem has rejected its implementation in practice. During last month’s Security Council debate, Erdan described the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, as “a terror-supporting entity that does not deserve any status in the UN.”

Israel has also vowed to completely destroy Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, after last year’s October 7 attacks.

After exercising his veto last month, Ambassador Wood said that the US action “does not reflect opposition to Palestinian statehood, but instead is an acknowledgement that it will only come from direct negotiations between the parties,” adding that Palestine can’t join the UN so long as Hamas is in control of Gaza.

Russia’s permanent representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia has accused the US of holding the Security Council “hostage” over events in the Middle East. He also argued that Palestinian statehood and UN membership would “equalize the starting negotiating positions of the parties.

An estimated 1,200 Israelis died in the October 7 attacks by Hamas. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the subsequent Israeli offensive, which is presently targeting the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza. Israel has pressed the attack despite the reservations of the US, made known at official levels.